A Resource For Understanding Federal Copyright As It Applies to the Internet


Legal Theories Related to Copyright Law




The First Amendment and Copyright Law in Cyberspace

Copyright law creates property-like rights in original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. The First Amendment, however, protects freedom of expression, and the Internet has been given special First Amendment protection against possible attempts to regulate content. While many commentators agree that there is little potential for conflict between the First Amendment and existing copyright law, this potential may change if authors and corporate copyright owners achieve additional copyright protections. For example, current limitations on copyright law, such as fair use, ensure that individuals may use copyrighted works for news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research purposes. This exception, then, serves the First Amendment interests in academic freedom and in the wide and free dissemination of ideas. If, however, fair use is severally restricted on the Internet, First Amendment values may give way to private profit incentives.



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