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 6: Building Bridges for Progress

Alina Ng


Our copyright past has been fraught with confusion, discontent, and disorder. As the previous chapters have argued, the difficulties in the present copyright system are largely attributable to several antecedent errors in the way we, as jurists and scholars, have thought about the law. We have carelessly allowed a dominance/subservience duality to replace what in a just system that fulfils the founders’ intentions should have been equality in the playing field between authors, publishers, and users. We have indiscriminately acquiesced in the appropriation of literary and artistic materials and proprietary control instead of consciously encouraging creation of these same materials for society and propriety in conduct. We have unwittingly permitted economics rather than ethics to be the governing influence upon the behaviour of those creating, producing, and using literary and artistic work within the copyright system. In many ways, the progress of science and the useful arts works on a very different plane from the one we have constructed through our laws. Such progress is not served by uncoupling various parties’ stakes in creative works but uniting them toward a common goal; it is not achieved in isolation but through connection; and, certainly, it should not be a competitive struggle but a collaborative endeavour. The only way to ensure that the copyright system achieves sustainable progress in the sciences and useful arts is for jurists, scholars, and policy makers to reassess the conventional understanding of the roles of authors, publishers, and users within a normative social order and develop a...

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