In a forthcoming article, "Lawful Personal Use," University of Michigan law professor Jessica Litman argues thoughtfully for "a view of copyright in which readers and listeners are as important as authors and publishers" and in which many of the uses we all routinely make of copyrighted materials would be deemed noninfringing -- indeed, wholly outside the scope of the copyright owners' exclusive rights -- regardless of whether they would satisfy the fair use standard:
Reading, listening, viewing, and their modern cousins watching, playing, running, and building, are central to the copyright scheme. We knew that once, but forgot it sometime within the past generation as the rhetoric of copyright increasingly characterized personal uses as piracy and theft. If we think about personal use as a guilty pleasure that is probably morally wrong, we’re going to lose it. If we recall that encouraging personal use is an objective that’s crucial to the copyright system, we may find the will to defend it against increasingly forceful encroachment.
And after all, she notes, "laws that discourage book reading end up being bad for book authors" as well. Litman comes to no definitive conclusions as to what the precise scope of "lawful personal use" should be, but her article is well worth reading, and the debate she has started is well worth engaging in.
Steve McDonald, @ollecteana 4/17/07
Posted by P. Kaufman at April 20, 2007 9:02 AM