Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2004

Center/Program

Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts

Abstract

If you inquired among the general public, “What does U.S. copyright law protect?” many people might start by grumbling that it overprotects piggish record companies. Calming slightly, they might next reply that copyright protects authors' rights and that among those is the right to be recognized as the author of the work. Indeed, few interests seem as fundamentally intuitive as that authorship credit should be given where credit is due. For example, in prelapsarian, pre-Napster days, the act of copyright infringement in which a youthful individual most likely engaged was probably plagiarism: there, lifting another author's text may have been unlawful, but at least as morally (and pedagogically) reprehensible was passing it off as the lifter's. Giving credit where it is due, moreover, is instinctively appropriate because it furthers the interests both of authors and of their public. For the public, the author's name, once known, alerts readers/viewers/listeners to particular characteristics or qualities to expect in the work. For authors, name recognition enhances sales (at least when the work that previously bore the author's name has been well received). As one Federal Court judge aptly put it:

Reputation is critical to a person who follows a vocation dependent on commissions from a variety of clients. Success breeds success, but only if the first success is known to potential clients. To deprive a person of a credit to which he was justly entitled is to do him a great wrong. Not only does he lose the general benefit of being associated with a successful production; he loses the chance of using that work to sell his abilities.

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