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Copyright Law – Spring 2021


One assignment per class. Except as noted below, each assignment below corresponds tentatively to one class period, though the amount of material to be covered in class, the order of the assignments, and/or the contents of a particular assignment may be changed by prior announcement. Note, for example, that there will be more class meetings than there are assignments. Every effort will be made to incorporate new developments in copyright law into the Syllabus, where appropriate.

The casebook is online. All of the assigned and optional readings for the course are available online, for free. You can read them online. You can download them to your own device(s). You can print them out. You can even combine them and have them printed and bound, as your own “book” copy. And, of course, you can edit them, annotate them, and cut them and paste them (or parts of them) in other things, such as course outlines.

Extras. For some assignments, additional materials have been posted online. These are separately identified in each assignment.  They can be downloaded below and at the Important Course Information page.  In some instances the supplemental materials may be posted to the TWEN page for this course, on Westlaw.

Many of the assignments include, in the right column below, links to optional (but possibly entertaining and useful) supplemental material.  Some provides historical context for the assigned cases. Some consists of clips from motion pictures and television shows that illustrate related copyright themes.  In some cases, these, too, illustrate the assigned readings.  In some cases, they are (one hopes) funny takes on relevant legal points.  Some of the film clips contain spicy [NSFW] language, sounds, and/or images.

Look up the statute. Within each assignment, the Syllabus notes the required reading, including the principal case(s) covered in the text. In addition to the assigned readings, where a case or other material refers to the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the United States Code), students are responsible for locating and reading the section(s) of the Act to which the text refers.  At least three free online resources are available for that purpose:  One is this free, online version of the Copyright Act hosted at Cornell University. Two is this free online publication of the United States Copyright Office.  Two is Intellectual Property: Law & The Information Society / Selected Statutes & Treaties / 2019 Edition (James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins, eds.). 

Have some theory! On the Course Information page, optional readings are included. Some of these are relatively short. Some are quite long. On the whole, they are highly readable introductions to key theoretical and public policy debates surrounding copyright. Reading some or all of them will give students a deeper picture of the current state of copyright law and policy than students will get by focusing on appellate cases and the statute alone.

Why the optional materials? Learning and knowing the law is difficult, but it is never enough. Great lawyers need to learn and know context. Copyright conflicts and copyright negotiations exist in companies, in markets, and among human beings. Copyright law exists to solve social problems (as a solution, it may not work terribly well, and it may create additional problems, but we start by talking about the problems that copyright evolved to solve). History matters. Culture matters. Economics and business matter. Systems matter. Other bodies of law matter, beyond copyright and beyond intellectual property. Great lawyers need to learn how to investigate those things and how they relate to their clients and the problems that their clients are trying to solve. In many respects the study and practice of copyright law requires lawyers to “toggle” between “law” and “culture.” Exploring the optional materials will help you learn to do just that.



Class 1 (the first day of class): An Introduction to Copyright’s Institutional Settings

Required Readings

  • Read the following article from the New York Times Magazine about the role of so-called collecting societies in the music industry: The Music-Copyright Enforcers (August 6, 2010)
  • Is the Batmobile subject to copyright?  Read DC Comics v. Towle [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Optional Materials

Class 2: Why Copyright? Historical Context and Contemporary Challenges

Required Readings

  • Read Boyle & Jenkins, Ch. 1 and Ch. 10, available on the Copyright Law – Spring 2021 page on TWEN, under “Course Materials.”
  • Prelude to Axanar (2014)
  • Frasier, Star Mitzvah (2002)
  • The classic film Rear Window (1954) (you can find it on Google Play, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and iTunes) OR
  • The two Rear Window trailers (see the right column)
  • The modern mediocrity based on Rear Window, Disturbia (2007) (you can find it online, per the above services) OR
  • The Disturbia trailer (see the right column)
  • Slides

Optional Materials


Class 3: Fair Use Basics – Cultural Interchange

Required Readings

Class 4: Fair Use Basics – Market Failure or “Productive Consumption”?

Class 5: The Cutting Edge of Fair Use


Class 6: Fixation

Required Readings

  • Section 102(a) of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Williams Electronics, Inc. v. Artic International, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Garcia v. Google, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Defender
  • Defense Command
  • Slides

Class 7: Originality

Required Readings

  • Section 102(a) of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co. [pdf] [docx]
  • Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony [pdf] [docx]
  • Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co. [pdf] [docx]
  • Meshwerks, Inc. v. Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Mannion v. Coors Brewing Co. [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Assignment Number One will be distributed
around this time. The assignment will be due on Friday, February 26, 2021.

Class 8: The Idea/Expression Distinction

Class 9: Authorship and Ownership

Required Readings

  • Sections 201 and 202 of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Lindsay v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel R.M.S. Titanic [pdf] [docx]
  • Erickson v. Trinity Theatre, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Aalmuhammed v. Lee [pdf] [docx]
  • Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid [pdf] [docx]
  • Aymes v. Bonelli [pdf] [docx]
  • Roeslin v. District of Columbia [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Class 10: Boundary Problems – Copyright and/vs. Trademark Law

Required Readings

  • Section 103 of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. [pdf] [docx]
  • Gilliam v. American Broadcasting Co. [pdf][docx]
  • Re-read the Batmobile materials from Class 1
  • Slides

Class 11: Boundary Problems – Copyright and/vs. (Design) Patent Law: Useful Articles with Pictorial, Graphic, or Sculptural Aspects

Required Readings

  • Relevant selections from Section 101 of the Copyright Act (“Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works”)
  • Mazer v. Stein [pdf] [docx]
  • Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Optional Materials


Many of the cases below feature claims of infringement in musical compositions and sound recordings. The Music Copyright Infringement Resource, hosted at George Washington University, contains an enormous volume of information about the works at issue in these and many other cases.

Class 12: The Elements of Infringement

Class 13: The Reproduction Right

Required Readings

Class 14: The Distribution Right

Required Readings

  • Sections 106(3) and 109(c) of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas [pdf] [docx]
  • Bobbs-Merrill Company v. Straus [pdf] [docx]
  • Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Capitol Records, LLC v. Redigi Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Optional Materials

  • The United Kingdom and Ireland each have a Public Lending Right, which does not exist in the United States. Read more here.

Class 15: The Right to Prepare Derivative Works, and Moral Rights

Required Readings

  • Sections 106(2) and 106A of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Lee v. A.R.T. Company [pdf] [docx]
  • Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc.[pdf] [docx]
  • Micro Star v. FormGen, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. v. RDR Books [pdf] [docx]
  • Lilley v. Stout [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Class 16: The Public Performance and Public Display Rights

Required Readings

  • Section 106(4), 106(5), 109(c), and 110 of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Columbia Pictures Indus. v. Redd Horne, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Perfect 10, Inc. v., Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc.[pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Classes 17 and 18: Licenses, Deals, and the Mechanics of Transfers

Required Readings

  • Section 204 of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Asset Marketing Systems, Inc. v. Gagnon [pdf] [docx]
  • Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers, Ltd. v. The Walt Disney Company [pdf] [docx]
  • Random House v. Rosetta Books [pdf] [docx]
  • Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Jacobsen v. Katzer [pdf] [docx]
  • F.B.T. Productions v. Aftermath Records [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Assignment Number Two will be distributed
around this time. The assignment will be due on Monday, April 5, 2021 [was Friday, April 2, 2021].


Classes 19 and 20: Identifying Defendants

Required Readings

  • Sections 106 and 501 of the Copyright Act and relevant selections from Section 101
  • Religious Technology Center v.  Netcom On-Line Communication Services, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Fonovisa, Inc. v. Cherry Auction, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Perfect 10, Inc. v. Visa Int’l Service Ass’n [pdf] [docx]
  • MGM Studios Inc. v. Grokster Ltd. [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides

Class 21: Remedies

Required Readings

  • Sections 502 through 507 of the Copyright Act
  • Bryant v. Media Right Productions [pdf] [docx]
  • Columbia Pictures Television v. Krypton Broadcasting of Birmingham, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Engel v. Wild Oats [pdf] [docx]
  • Dash v. Mayweather [pdf] [docx]
  • Hamil America v. GFI [pdf] [docx]
  • Salinger v. Colting [pdf] [docx]
  • United States v. Liu [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides [from 2020]

Optional Materials

Class 22: Service Providers


Class 23: Formalities

Required Readings

  • Michael J. Madison, Formalities, on the Copyright Law – Spring 2021 page on TWEN
  • Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides [from 2020]

Class 24: Duration; Renewals and Terminations of Transfers

Required Readings

Class 25: Copyright, Compulsory and Statutory Licensing, and Collective Rights Organizations

Required Readings

  • Michael J. Madison, Compulsory Licenses and Regulatory Copyright, on the Copyright Law – Spring 2021 page on TWEN
  • Newton v. Diamond [pdf] [docx]
  • Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films [pdf] [docx]
  • Arista Records, LLC v. Launch Media, Inc. [pdf] [docx]
  • Slides


Class 26: Reform Proposals

Assignment Number Three will be distributed during the last week of class. The assignment will be due on the last day of exams.