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 3: The Social Contract

Alina Ng


Franklin D. Roosevelt The truth is found when men are free to pursue it. As discussed earlier, the aim of this book is to cast the copyright system in a new light by arguing that the rights and obligations of authors, publishers, and users must be consistent with a common agreement to advance science and the useful arts for the benefit of society and with a normative social order comprising moral and ethical principles. The extensive control of copyright holders over society’s use and dissemination of creative works granted by copyright laws today had its genesis in the Anglo-American tradition as a modest publisher’s right to print books, pamphlets, and other literary materials. Yet a closer examination of the history of copyright laws reveals that even early on, a set of normative principles guided the author–publisher relationship and set behavioural expectations between both parties. This and the following two chapters examine these norms and how they became incorporated into a system of laws not to simply traverse familiar ground but to uncover principles that may be incorporated into modern copyright jurisprudence to provide a standard for moral and ethical conduct in the use and production of creative works. They will also explore norms that could have been articulated but were not, with important consequences for the institutional goal of progress. This chapter will examine the legal and social contract that developed among the state, publishers, and authors in Britain between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, while Chapter 4 will...

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