Copyright Law and the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts
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Copyright Law and the Progress of Science and the Useful Arts

Alina Ng

The American Constitution empowers Congress to enact copyright laws to ‘promote the progress of science and the useful arts’. This book offers the first in-depth analysis of the connection between copyright law as a legal institution and the constitutional goal of promoting social and cultural advancement.
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Chapter 1: Knowledge in a Global Society

Alina Ng


Until the great mass of people shall be filled with a sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained. Helen Keller Knowledge creation requires cognitive and critical thinking skills to transform basic information into useful knowledge that will benefit society. The most socially valuable knowledge – that is, knowledge that advances society, culture, and the sciences – is often produced through the collaborative efforts of many individuals at different stages of the creation and production process. The copyright system grants knowledge producers various exclusive rights over their work to protect it from unauthorised uses and to allow the copyright owner to reap economic rewards from commercial markets. Nonetheless, many producers of knowledge do not create their work solely or even primarily for economic rewards, but for such reasons as recognition, professional advancement, credibility, generosity, or even simple pleasure. This book argues that these non-market rewards may play as necessary a role as economic gain in encouraging human contributions to a shared pool of social and cultural knowledge, and that such rewards may be best promoted and implemented not by a property-based conception of copyright but by a set of normative principles that provide moral and ethical guidance on the use and production of knowledge. It posits a system in which the production and use of knowledge would be guided by recognised principles of morality and ethics as well as economic rewards, providing participants within creative and innovative communities the non-market rewards that are so essential in encouraging...

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