Intellectual Property and Access to Im/material Goods

Intellectual Property and Access to Im/material Goods

Elgar Law, Technology and Society series

Edited by Jessica C. Lai and Antoinette Maget Dominicé

Traditionally, in order to be protected intellectual property goods have almost always needed to be embodied or materialised (and – to a certain extent – to be used and enjoyed), regardless of whether they were copyrighted works, patented inventions or trademarks. This book examines the relationship between intellectual property and its physical embodiments and materialisations, with a focus on the issue of access and the challenges of new technologies. Expert contributors explore how these problems can re-shape our theoretical notion of the intangible and the tangible and how this can have serious consequences for access to intellectual property goods.

Chapter 3: The copy in copyright

Peter K. Yu

Subjects: innovation and technology, intellectual property, law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, intellectual property law


Since its inception, copyright law has been developed around the concept of “copy”. Although copyright began mostly as a right vested in copies, and therefore a right to prevent others from multiplying copies, the emphasis has now been dramatically shifted to the act of copying itself. The terms “copy” and “copies” have also been slowly re-conceptualised to respond to changing technology and to expand the scope of copyright protection. The first half of this chapter takes a historical perspective. It recounts the use of the concept of “copy” by the Stationers’ Company and in the Statute of Anne. It also addresses two different sets of challenges to this foundational concept: (1) the US Supreme Court case of White-Smith Music Publishing Co v Apollo Co and (2) the efforts in the mid-1990s to update the concept to meet the needs of the digital environment. The second half of this chapter is forward-looking. It examines four areas in which digital technology has posed major challenges to the concept of “copy”: reproduction, distribution, public performance and making available. The chapter concludes with six observations concerning the future development of copyright law in the digital environment.

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