The Public Domain

The Public Domain

The process of authorship, however, is more equivocal than that romantic model admits. To say that every new work is in some sense based on the works that preceded it is such a truism that it has long been a cliche, invoked but not examined. But the very act of authorship in any medium is more akin to translation and recombination than it is to creating Aphrodite from the foam of the sea. Composers recombine sounds they have heard before; playwrights base their characters on bits and pieces drawn from real human beings and other playwrights’ characters; novelists draw their plots from lives and other plots within their experience; software writers use the logic they find in other software; lawyers transform old arguments to fit new facts; cinematographers, actors, choreographers, architects, and sculptors all engage in the process of adapting, transforming, and recombining what is already “out there”‘ in some other form. This is not parasitism: it is the essence of authorship. And, in the absence of a vigorous public domain, much of it would be illegal.

Jessica Litman

Emory University School of Law


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By |2019-02-22T08:35:13-08:00January 1st, 2018|Copyright, Intellectual Property, Patents, Reference|