26 September 2014

Information Theory

'An Information Theory of Copyright Law' by Jeanne C. Fromer in (2014) 64 Emory Law Journal 71 argues that
The dominant American theory of copyright law is utilitarian, in offering the incentive of limited copyright protection to creators to generate material that is valuable to society. Less settled is the question of the sorts of works that copyright law seeks to encourage: Ever more copyrightable creations? Only some that are artistically worthy? What makes a work valuable to society? This Article seeks to answer important aspects of these questions by examining them through the lens of information theory, a branch of applied mathematics that quantifies information and suggests optimal ways to transmit it. Using these concepts, this Article proposes that what makes expressive works valuable to society is that they make a contribution in at least one of two principal ways: by using that expression to communicate knowledge — be it systematic, factual, or cultural — and by conveying expression that is enjoyable in and of itself. Information theory sheds light on how copyright law can spur these valuable works. In undertaking this analysis, this Article explores the implications for the central doctrines of copyright law, including copyrightability, the idea-expression distinction, infringement, and fair use. In this context, this Article also considers whether we want distinct creators communicating these valuable types of information or whether it is optimal to unify particular communications of information in a single creator.
‘I’m not a lawyer but …’: Fan disclaimers and claims against copyright law' by Jenny Roth and Monica Flegel in (2013) 1(2) The Journal of Fandom Studies 218 argues that
Fan fiction has become increasingly widespread, and online discussions between fans about fan fiction and copyright reveal the extent to which fans are both governed by and resist copyright law, as they understand it. As complex agents both within and outside of law, writers and supporters of fan fiction reveal the problems of speaking against law from a position that is regulated by law, a position creative re-producers are forced to occupy in an increasingly copyrighted, patented and trademarked world. So long as those whom the law is meant to regulate see themselves as legitimate shapers of that law, even though they inhabit space outside the formal mechanisms of law or the legal world, the law will not be effective. When fans with little or no legal expertise invoke and interpret copyright, they reveal that copyright does not attend to the complex realities of creative production, nor the very active consumption, engagement with, and re-articulation of cultural artefacts and texts in society to effectively police at the grassroots level.