Copyright and Its Metaphors


Last year, Lawrence Lessig delivered the fifteenth Melville B. Nimmer Memorial Lecture, in which he invoked Professor Nimmer's concern with the balance between copyright protection and the First Amendment right of free speech.' Lessig addressed the imbalance that has developed in copyright law from the point of view of a constitutional scholar. I am an English professor, not a lawyer. Therefore, I am particularly honored to have been asked to deliver the sixteenth lecture in this prestigious series. Therefore, too, I want to contribute a literary and historical perspective to the ongoing discussion of the balance between copyright protection and other civic interests. Specifically, I propose to examine two metaphors that have long been used to frame thought about the relationship between authors and their writings. One is the idea of a book as a child, and the related concept of authorship as a form of paternity. The other is the idea of a book as real estate, as property no different in principle, as Eaton S. Drone put it, from orchards and fields.

By uclalaw