Copyright Article

The Obligatory Structure of Copyright Law: Unbundling the Wrong of Copying

Vol. 125 No. 7 Courts and scholars today understand and discuss the institution of copyright in wholly instrumental terms. Indeed, given the forms of analysis that they routinely employ, one might be forgiven for thinking that copyright is nothing more than a comprehensive government-administered scheme for encouraging the production of creative expression and is therefore quite legitimately the subject matter of public law. While this instrumental focus may have the beneficial effect of limiting copyright’s unending expansion, it also serves as a source of distraction. It directs attention away from the reality that copyright is fundamentally a creation of the law and is thus endowed with a uniquely legal normativity that instrumental accounts find difficult to capture. In so doing, it also glosses over the rather crucial fact that copyright law’s basic structure is and indeed always has been that of private law.