Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



This early history of copyright would be of little more than antiquarian interest except that it demonstrates the source of the confusion regarding the function of copyright. Although generally viewed as a right of the author, copyright has continued to function as a trade regulation device. Before the advent of computers and copying machines, this point was of relatively little importance, but IBM and Xerox have complicated copyright law enormously. Thus, in attempting to isolate the issues, it is helpful to view the law of copyright as statutorily creating unfair competition based on the doctrine of misappropriation. It is both monopolistic and antimonopolistic in that it is a trade regulation concept intended to protect legitimate property rights while preventing the expansion of those rights into an unwarranted monopoly. Indeed,the new copyright act reflects this function in several ways. It prohibits copyright for ideas, contains compulsory licensing provisions, and provides for extensive limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright proprietor--primarily, the doctrine of fair use.