The purpose of the course at Bocconi University – Affiliate of Harvard CopyrightX – is to acquire a complete understanding of both European copyright law and North American system so to grasp the differences between the civil law tradition (droit d’auteur) and the common law tradition (copyright).
The aim is to provide students with a critical analysis of US copyright law, starting from the theories underpinning its rules to the mechanisms that are typical of this jurisdiction, always maintaining the parallelism with EU copyright discipline.
Each of the 12 weeks of the course counts two sessions: (1) a lecture; and (2) a seminar where US and EU decisions related to the topic of the lecture will be discussed, tryng to figure out a comparison, where possible.
Then, the materials mainly include US and European case law.
For students: please check the syllabus on a reguarly basis: it is a work in progress and it will be costantly updated, also as a consequence of the discussions carried out in the previous sessions.
Discussion: Originality and idea/expression dichotomy
499 U.S. 340 (1991)2
Supreme Court of the United States5
Argued January 9, 19916
Decided March 27, 19917
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT8
Kyler Knobbe argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.9
James M. Caplinger, Jr., argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.10
JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.11
This case requires us to clarify the extent of copyright protection available to telephone directory white pages.12
Rural Telephone Service Company, Inc., is a certified public utility that provides telephone service to several communities in northwest Kansas. It is subject to a state regulation that requires all telephone companies operating in Kansas to issue annually an updated telephone directory. Accordingly, as a condition of its monopoly franchise, Rural publishes a typical telephone directory, consisting of white pages and yellow pages. The white pages list in alphabetical order the names of Rural's subscribers, together with their towns and telephone numbers. The yellow pages list Rural's business subscribers alphabetically by category and feature classified advertisements of various sizes. Rural distributes its directory free of charge to its subscribers, but earns revenue by selling yellow pages advertisements.14
Feist Publications, Inc., is a publishing company that specializes in area-wide telephone directories. Unlike a typical directory, which covers only a particular calling area, Feist's area-wide directories cover a much larger geographical range, reducing the need to call directory assistance or consult multiple directories. The Feist directory that is the subject of this litigation covers 11 different telephone service areas in 15 counties and contains 46,878 white pages listings—compared to Rural's approximately 7,700 listings. Like Rural's directory, Feist's is distributed free of charge and includes both white pages and yellow pages. Feist and Rural compete vigorously for yellow pages advertising.15
As the sole provider of telephone service in its service area, Rural obtains subscriber information quite easily. Persons desiring telephone service must apply to Rural and provide their names and addresses; Rural then assigns them a telephone number. Feist is not a telephone company, let alone one with monopoly status, and therefore lacks independent access to any subscriber information. To obtain white pages listings for its area-wide directory, Feist approached each of the 11 telephone companies operating in northwest Kansas and offered to pay for the right to use its white pages listings.16
Of the 11 telephone companies, only Rural refused to license its listings to Feist. Rural's refusal created a problem for Feist, as omitting these listings would have left a gaping hole in its area-wide directory, rendering it less attractive to potential yellow pages advertisers. In a decision subsequent to that which we review here, the District Court determined that this was precisely the reason Rural refused to license its listings. The refusal was motivated by an unlawful purpose "to extend its monopoly in telephone service to a monopoly in yellow pages advertising." Rural Telephone Service Co. v. Feist Publications, Inc., 737 F. Supp. 610, 622 (Kan. 1990).17
Unable to license Rural's white pages listings, Feist used them without Rural's consent. Feist began by removing several thousand listings that fell outside the geographic range of its area-wide directory, then hired personnel to investigate the 4,935 that remained. These employees verified the data reported by Rural and sought to obtain additional information. As a result, a typical Feist listing includes the individual's street address; most of Rural's listings do not. Notwithstanding these additions, however, 1,309 of the 46,878 listings in Feist's 1983 directory were identical to listings in Rural's 1982-1983 white pages. App. 54 (¶ 15-16), 57. Four of these were fictitious listings that Rural had inserted into its directory to detect copying.18
Rural sued for copyright infringement in the District Court for the District of Kansas taking the position that Feist, in compiling its own directory, could not use the information contained in Rural's white pages. Rural asserted that Feist's employees were obliged to travel door-to-door or conduct a telephone survey to discover the same information for themselves. Feist responded that such efforts were economically impractical and, in any event, unnecessary because the information copied was beyond the scope of copyright protection. The District Court granted summary judgment to Rural, explaining that "[c]ourts have consistently held that telephone directories are copyrightable" and citing a string of lower court decisions. 663 F. Supp. 214, 218 (1987). In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed "for substantially the reasons given by the district court." App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a, judgt. order reported at 916 F. 2d 718 (1990). We granted certiorari, 498 U. S. 808 (1990), to determine whether the copyright in Rural's directory protects the names, towns, and telephone numbers copied by Feist.19
This case concerns the interaction of two well-established propositions. The first is that facts are not copyrightable; the other, that compilations of facts generally are. Each of these propositions possesses an impeccable pedigree. That there can be no valid copyright in facts is universally understood. The most fundamental axiom of copyright law is that "[n]o author may copyright his ideas or the facts he narrates." Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U. S. 539, 556 (1985). Rural wisely concedes this point, noting in its brief that "[f]acts and discoveries, of course, are not themselves subject to copyright protection." Brief for Respondent 24. At the same time, however, it is beyond dispute that compilations of facts are within the subject matter of copyright. Compilations were expressly mentioned in the Copyright Act of 1909, and again in the Copyright Act of 1976.22
There is an undeniable tension between these two propositions. Many compilations consist of nothing but raw data— i. e., wholly factual information not accompanied by any original written expression. On what basis may one claim a copyright in such a work? Common sense tells us that 100 uncopyrightable facts do not magically change their status when gathered together in one place. Yet copyright law seems to contemplate that compilations that consist exclusively of facts are potentially within its scope.23
The key to resolving the tension lies in understanding why facts are not copyrightable. The sine qua non of copyright is originality. To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original to the author. See Harper & Row, supra, at 547-549. Original, as the term is used in copyright, means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. 1 M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Copyright §§ 2.01[A], [B] (1990) (hereinafter Nimmer). To be sure, the requisite level of creativity is extremely low; even a slight amount will suffice. The vast majority of works make the grade quite easily, as they possess some creative spark, "no matter how crude, humble or obvious" it might be. Id., § 1.08[C]. Originality does not signify novelty; a work may be original even though it closely resembles other works so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result of copying. To illustrate, assume that two poets, each ignorant of the other, compose identical poems. Neither work is novel, yet both are original and, hence, copyrightable. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F. 2d 49, 54 (CA2 1936).24
Originality is a constitutional requirement. The source of Congress' power to enact copyright laws is Article I, § 8, cl. 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to "secur[e] for limited Times to Authors . . . the exclusive Right to their respective Writings." In two decisions from the late 19th century—The Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U. S. 82 (1879); and Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U. S. 53 (1884)—this Court defined the crucial terms "authors" and "writings." In so doing, the Court made it unmistakably clear that these terms presuppose a degree of originality.25
In The Trade-Mark Cases, the Court addressed the constitutional scope of "writings." For a particular work to be classified "under the head of writings of authors," the Court determined, "originality is required." 100 U. S., at 94. The Court explained that originality requires independent creation plus a modicum of creativity: "[W]hile the word writings may be liberally construed, as it has been, to include original designs for engraving, prints, &c., it is only such as are original, and are founded in the creative powers of the mind. The writings which are to be protected are the fruits of intellectual labor, embodied in the form of books, prints, engravings, and the like." Ibid. (emphasis in original).26
In Burrow-Giles, the Court distilled the same requirement from the Constitution's use of the word "authors." The Court defined "author," in a constitutional sense, to mean "he to whom anything owes its origin; originator; maker." 111 U. S., at 58 (internal quotation marks omitted). As in The Trade-Mark Cases, the Court emphasized the creative component of originality. It described copyright as being limited to "original intellectual conceptions of the author," 111 U. S., at 58, and stressed the importance of requiring an author who accuses another of infringement to prove "the existence of those facts of originality, of intellectual production, of thought, and conception." Id., at 59-60.27
The originality requirement articulated in The Trade-Mark Cases and Burrow-Giles remains the touchstone of copyright protection today. See Goldstein v. California, 412 U. S. 546, 561-562 (1973). It is the very "premise of copyright law." Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d 1365, 1368 (CA5 1981). Leading scholars agree on this point. As one pair of commentators succinctly puts it: "The originality requirement is constitutionally mandated for all works." Patterson & Joyce, Monopolizing the Law: The Scope of Copyright Protection for Law Reports and Statutory Compilations, 36 UCLA L. Rev. 719, 763, n. 155 (1989) (emphasis in original) (hereinafter Patterson & Joyce). Accord, id., at 759-760, and n. 140; Nimmer § 1.06[A] ("[O]riginality is a statutory as well as a constitutional requirement"); id., § 1.08[C] ("[A] modicum of intellectual labor . . . clearly constitutes an essential constitutional element").28
It is this bedrock principle of copyright that mandates the law's seemingly disparate treatment of facts and factual compilations. "No one may claim originality as to facts." Id., § 2.11[A], p. 2-157. This is because facts do not owe their origin to an act of authorship. The distinction is one between creation and discovery: The first person to find and report a particular fact has not created the fact; he or she has merely discovered its existence. To borrow from Burrow-Giles, one who discovers a fact is not its "maker" or "originator." 111 U. S., at 58. "The discoverer merely finds and records." Nimmer § 2.03[E]. Census takers, for example, do not "create" the population figures that emerge from their efforts; in a sense, they copy these figures from the world around them. Denicola, Copyright in Collections of Facts: A Theory for the Protection of Nonfiction Literary Works, 81 Colum. L. Rev. 516, 525 (1981) (hereinafter Denicola). Census data therefore do not trigger copyright because these data are not "original" in the constitutional sense. Nimmer § 2.03[E]. The same is true of all facts—scientific, historical, biographical, and news of the day. "[T]hey may not be copyrighted and are part of the public domain available to every person." Miller, supra, at 1369.29
Factual compilations, on the other hand, may possess the requisite originality. The compilation author typically chooses which facts to include, in what order to place them, and how to arrange the collected data so that they may be used effectively by readers. These choices as to selection and arrangement, so long as they are made independently by the compiler and entail a minimal degree of creativity, are sufficiently original that Congress may protect such compilations through the copyright laws. Nimmer §§ 2.11[D], 3.03; Denicola 523, n. 38. Thus, even a directory that contains absolutely no protectible written expression, only facts, meets the constitutional minimum for copyright protection if it features an original selection or arrangement. See Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 547. Accord, Nimmer § 3.03.30
This protection is subject to an important limitation. The mere fact that a work is copyrighted does not mean that every element of the work may be protected. Originality remains the sine qua non of copyright; accordingly, copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author. Patterson & Joyce 800-802; Ginsburg, Creation and Commercial Value: Copyright Protection of Works of Information, 90 Colum. L. Rev. 1865, 1868, and n. 12 (1990) (hereinafter Ginsburg). Thus, if the compilation author clothes facts with an original collocation of words, he or she may be able to claim a copyright in this written expression. Others may copy the underlying facts from the publication, but not the precise words used to present them. In Harper & Row, for example, we explained that President Ford could not prevent others from copying bare historical facts from his autobiography, see 471 U. S., at 556-557, but that he could prevent others from copying his "subjective descriptions and portraits of public figures." Id., at 563. Where the compilation author adds no written expression but rather lets the facts speak for themselves, the expressive element is more elusive. The only conceivable expression is the manner in which the compiler has selected and arranged the facts. Thus, if the selection and arrangement are original, these elements of the work are eligible for copyright protection. See Patry, Copyright in Compilations of Facts (or Why the "White Pages" Are Not Copyrightable), 12 Com. & Law 37, 64 (Dec. 1990) (hereinafter Patry). No matter how original the format, however, the facts themselves do not become original through association. See Patterson & Joyce 776.31
This inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin. Notwithstanding a valid copyright, a subsequent compiler remains free to use the facts contained in another's publication to aid in preparing a competing work, so long as the competing work does not feature the same selection and arrangement. As one commentator explains it: "[N]o matter how much original authorship the work displays, the facts and ideas it exposes are free for the taking . . . . [T]he very same facts and ideas may be divorced from the context imposed by the author, and restated or reshuffled by second comers, even if the author was the first to discover the facts or to propose the ideas." Ginsburg 1868.32
It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not "some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme." Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 589 (dissenting opinion). It is, rather, "the essence of copyright," ibid., and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." Art. I, § 8, cl. 8. Accord, Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U. S. 151, 156 (1975). To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. Harper & Row, supra, at 556-557. This principle, known as the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy, applies to all works of authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of original written expression, only the compiler's selection and arrangement may be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art.33
This Court has long recognized that the fact/expression dichotomy limits severely the scope of protection in fact-based works. More than a century ago, the Court observed: "The very object of publishing a book on science or the useful arts is to communicate to the world the useful knowledge which it contains. But this object would be frustrated if the knowledge could not be used without incurring the guilt of piracy of the book." Baker v. Selden, 101 U. S. 99, 103 (1880). We reiterated this point in Harper & Row:34
"[N]o author may copyright facts or ideas. The copyright is limited to those aspects of the work—termed `expression'—that display the stamp of the author's originality.
"[C]opyright does not prevent subsequent users from copying from a prior author's work those constituent elements that are not original—for example . . . facts, or materials in the public domain—as long as such use does not unfairly appropriate the author's original contributions." 471 U. S., at 547-548 (citation omitted).
This, then, resolves the doctrinal tension: Copyright treats facts and factual compilations in a wholly consistent manner. Facts, whether alone or as part of a compilation, are not original and therefore may not be copyrighted. A factual compilation is eligible for copyright if it features an original selection or arrangement of facts, but the copyright is limited to the particular selection or arrangement. In no event may copyright extend to the facts themselves.37
As we have explained, originality is a constitutionally mandated prerequisite for copyright protection. The Court's decisions announcing this rule predate the Copyright Act of 1909, but ambiguous language in the 1909 Act caused some lower courts temporarily to lose sight of this requirement.39
The 1909 Act embodied the originality requirement, but not as clearly as it might have. See Nimmer § 2.01. The subject matter of copyright was set out in §§ 3 and 4 of the Act. Section 4 stated that copyright was available to "all the writings of an author." 35 Stat. 1076. By using the words "writings" and "author"—the same words used in Article I, § 8, of the Constitution and defined by the Court in The Trade-Mark Cases and Burrow-Giles—the statute necessarily incorporated the originality requirement articulated in the Court's decisions. It did so implicitly, however, thereby leaving room for error.40
Section 3 was similarly ambiguous. It stated that the copyright in a work protected only "the copyrightable component parts of the work." It thus stated an important copyright principle, but failed to identify the specific characteristic—originality—that determined which component parts of a work were copyrightable and which were not.41
Most courts construed the 1909 Act correctly, notwithstanding the less-than-perfect statutory language. They understood from this Court's decisions that there could be no copyright without originality. See Patterson & Joyce 760-761. As explained in the Nimmer treatise: "The 1909 Act neither defined originality, nor even expressly required that a work be `original' in order to command protection. However, the courts uniformly inferred the requirement from the fact that copyright protection may only be claimed by `authors'. . . . It was reasoned that since an author is `the . . . creator, originator' it follows that a work is not the product of an author unless the work is original." Nimmer § 2.01 (footnotes omitted) (citing cases).42
But some courts misunderstood the statute. See, e. g., Leon v. Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co., 91 F. 2d 484 (CA9 1937); Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co. v. Keystone Publishing Co., 281 F. 83 (CA2 1922). These courts ignored §§ 3 and 4, focusing their attention instead on § 5 of the Act. Section 5, however, was purely technical in nature: It provided that a person seeking to register a work should indicate on the application the type of work, and it listed 14 categories under which the work might fall. One of these categories was "[b]ooks, including composite and cyclopædic works, directories, gazetteers, and other compilations." § 5(a). Section 5 did not purport to say that all compilations were automatically copyrightable. Indeed, it expressly disclaimed any such function, pointing out that "the subject-matter of copyright [i]s defined in section four." Nevertheless, the fact that factual compilations were mentioned specifically in § 5 led some courts to infer erroneously that directories and the like were copyrightable per se, "without any further or precise showing of original—personal—authorship." Ginsburg 1895.43
Making matters worse, these courts developed a new theory to justify the protection of factual compilations. Known alternatively as "sweat of the brow" or "industrious collection," the underlying notion was that copyright was a reward for the hard work that went into compiling facts. The classic formulation of the doctrine appeared in Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., 281 F., at 88:44
"The right to copyright a book upon which one has expended labor in its preparation does not depend upon whether the materials which he has collected consist or not of matters which are publici juris, or whether such materials show literary skill or originality, either in thought or in language, or anything more than industrious collection. The man who goes through the streets of a town and puts down the names of each of the inhabitants, with their occupations and their street number, acquires material of which he is the author" (emphasis added).45
The "sweat of the brow" doctrine had numerous flaws, the most glaring being that it extended copyright protection in a compilation beyond selection and arrangement—the compiler's original contributions—to the facts themselves. Under the doctrine, the only defense to infringement was independent creation. A subsequent compiler was "not entitled to take one word of information previously published," but rather had to "independently wor[k] out the matter for himself, so as to arrive at the same result from the same common sources of information." Id., at 88-89 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Sweat of the brow" courts thereby eschewed the most fundamental axiom of copyright law—that no one may copyright facts or ideas. See Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d, at 1372 (criticizing "sweat of the brow" courts because "ensur[ing] that later writers obtain the facts independently . . . is precisely the scope of protection given . . . copyrighted matter, and the law is clear that facts are not entitled to such protection").46
Decisions of this Court applying the 1909 Act make clear that the statute did not permit the "sweat of the brow" approach. The best example is International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U. S. 215 (1918). In that decision, the Court stated unambiguously that the 1909 Act conferred copyright protection only on those elements of a work that were original to the author. International News Service had conceded taking news reported by Associated Press and publishing it in its own newspapers. Recognizing that § 5 of the Act specifically mentioned "`periodicals, including newspapers,'" § 5(b), the Court acknowledged that news articles were copyrightable. Id., at 234. It flatly rejected, however, the notion that the copyright in an article extended to the factual information it contained: "[T]he news element— the information respecting current events contained in the literary production—is not the creation of the writer, but is a report of matters that ordinarily are publici juris; it is the history of the day." Ibid.47
Without a doubt, the "sweat of the brow" doctrine flouted basic copyright principles. Throughout history, copyright law has "recognize[d] a greater need to disseminate factual works than works of fiction or fantasy." Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 563. Accord, Gorman, Fact or Fancy: The Implications for Copyright, 29 J. Copyright Soc. 560, 563 (1982). But "sweat of the brow" courts took a contrary view; they handed out proprietary interests in facts and declared that authors are absolutely precluded from saving time and effort by relying upon the facts contained in prior works. In truth, "[i]t is just such wasted effort that the proscription against the copyright of ideas and facts . . . [is] designed to prevent." Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc., 366 F. 2d 303, 310 (CA2 1966), cert. denied, 385 U. S. 1009 (1967). "Protection for the fruits of such research . . . may in certain circumstances be available under a theory of unfair competition. But to accord copyright protection on this basis alone distorts basic copyright principles in that it creates a monopoly in public domain materials without the necessary justification of protecting and encouraging the creation of `writings' by `authors.'" Nimmer § 3.04, p. 3-23 (footnote omitted).48
"Sweat of the brow" decisions did not escape the attention of the Copyright Office. When Congress decided to over-haul the copyright statute and asked the Copyright Office to study existing problems, see Mills Music, Inc. v. Snyder, 469 U. S. 153, 159 (1985), the Copyright Office promptly recommended that Congress clear up the confusion in the lower courts as to the basic standards of copyrightability. The Register of Copyrights explained in his first report to Congress that "originality" was a "basic requisit[e]" of copyright under the 1909 Act, but that "the absence of any reference to [originality] in the statute seems to have led to misconceptions as to what is copyrightable matter." Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U. S. Copyright Law, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 9 (H. Judiciary Comm. Print 1961). The Register suggested making the originality requirement explicit. Ibid.50
Congress took the Register's advice. In enacting the Copyright Act of 1976, Congress dropped the reference to "all the writings of an author" and replaced it with the phrase "original works of authorship." 17 U. S. C. § 102(a). In making explicit the originality requirement, Congress announced that it was merely clarifying existing law: "The two fundamental criteria of copyright protection [are] originality and fixation in tangible form . . . . The phrase `original works of authorship,' which is purposely left undefined, is intended to incorporate without change the standard of originality established by the courts under the present  copyright statute." H. R. Rep. No. 94-1476, p. 51 (1976) (emphasis added) (hereinafter H. R. Rep.); S. Rep. No. 94-473, p. 50 (1975) (emphasis added) (hereinafter S. Rep.). This sentiment was echoed by the Copyright Office: "Our intention here is to maintain the established standards of originality. . . ." Supplementary Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of U. S. Copyright Law, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 6, p. 3 (H. Judiciary Comm. Print 1965) (emphasis added).51
To ensure that the mistakes of the "sweat of the brow" courts would not be repeated, Congress took additional measures. For example, § 3 of the 1909 Act had stated that copyright protected only the "copyrightable component parts" of a work, but had not identified originality as the basis for distinguishing those component parts that were copyrightable from those that were not. The 1976 Act deleted this section and replaced it with § 102(b), which identifies specifically those elements of a work for which copyright is not available: "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." Section 102(b) is universally understood to prohibit any copyright in facts. Harper & Row, supra, at 547, 556. Accord, Nimmer § 2.03[E] (equating facts with "discoveries"). As with § 102(a), Congress emphasized that § 102(b) did not change the law, but merely clarified it: "Section 102(b) in no way enlarges or contracts the scope of copyright protection under the present law. Its purpose is to restate . . . that the basic dichotomy between expression and idea remains unchanged." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 54.52
Congress took another step to minimize confusion by deleting the specific mention of "directories . . . and other compilations" in § 5 of the 1909 Act. As mentioned, this section had led some courts to conclude that directories were copyrightable per se and that every element of a directory was protected. In its place, Congress enacted two new provisions. First, to make clear that compilations were not copyrightable per se, Congress provided a definition of the term "compilation." Second, to make clear that the copyright in a compilation did not extend to the facts themselves, Congress enacted § 103.53
The definition of "compilation" is found in § 101 of the 1976 Act. It defines a "compilation" in the copyright sense as "a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship" (emphasis added).54
The purpose of the statutory definition is to emphasize that collections of facts are not copyrightable per se. It conveys this message through its tripartite structure, as emphasized above by the italics. The statute identifies three distinct elements and requires each to be met for a work to qualify as a copyrightable compilation: (1) the collection and assembly of pre-existing material, facts, or data; (2) the selection, coordination, or arrangement of those materials; and (3) the creation, by virtue of the particular selection, coordination, or arrangement, of an "original" work of authorship. "[T]his tripartite conjunctive structure is self-evident, and should be assumed to `accurately express the legislative purpose.'" Patry 51, quoting.55
At first glance, the first requirement does not seem to tell us much. It merely describes what one normally thinks of as a compilation—a collection of pre-existing material, facts, or data. What makes it significant is that it is not the sole requirement. It is not enough for copyright purposes that an author collects and assembles facts. To satisfy the statutory definition, the work must get over two additional hurdles. In this way, the plain language indicates that not every collection of facts receives copyright protection. Otherwise, there would be a period after "data."56
The third requirement is also illuminating. It emphasizes that a compilation, like any other work, is copyrightable only if it satisfies the originality requirement ("an original work of authorship"). Although § 102 states plainly that the originality requirement applies to all works, the point was emphasized with regard to compilations to ensure that courts would not repeat the mistake of the "sweat of the brow" courts by concluding that fact-based works are treated differently and measured by some other standard. As Congress explained it, the goal was to "make plain that the criteria of copyrightable subject matter stated in section 102 apply with full force to works . . . containing preexisting material." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 55.57
The key to the statutory definition is the second requirement. It instructs courts that, in determining whether a fact-based work is an original work of authorship, they should focus on the manner in which the collected facts have been selected, coordinated, and arranged. This is a straightforward application of the originality requirement. Facts are never original, so the compilation author can claim originality, if at all, only in the way the facts are presented. To that end, the statute dictates that the principal focus should be on whether the selection, coordination, and arrangement are sufficiently original to merit protection.58
Not every selection, coordination, or arrangement will pass muster. This is plain from the statute. It states that, to merit protection, the facts must be selected, coordinated, or arranged "in such a way" as to render the work as a whole original. This implies that some "ways" will trigger copyright, but that others will not. See Patry 57, and n. 76. Otherwise, the phrase "in such a way" is meaningless and Congress should have defined "compilation" simply as "a work formed by the collection and assembly of preexisting materials or data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged." That Congress did not do so is dispositive. In accordance with "the established principle that a court should give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute," Moskal v. United States, 498 U. S. 103, 109-110 (1990) (internal quotation marks omitted), we conclude that the statute envisions that there will be some fact-based works in which the selection, coordination, and arrangement are not sufficiently original to trigger copyright protection.59
As discussed earlier, however, the originality requirement is not particularly stringent. A compiler may settle upon a selection or arrangement that others have used; novelty is not required. Originality requires only that the author make the selection or arrangement independently (i. e., without copying that selection or arrangement from another work), and that it display some minimal level of creativity. Presumably, the vast majority of compilations will pass this test, but not all will. There remains a narrow category of works in which the creative spark is utterly lacking or so trivial as to be virtually nonexistent. See generally Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U. S. 239, 251 (1903) (referring to "the narrowest and most obvious limits"). Such works are incapable of sustaining a valid copyright. Nimmer § 2.01[B].60
Even if a work qualifies as a copyrightable compilation, it receives only limited protection. This is the point of § 103 of the Act. Section 103 explains that "[t]he subject matter of copyright . . . includes compilations," § 103(a), but that copyright protects only the author's original contributions—not the facts or information conveyed:61
"The copyright in a compilation . . . extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material." § 103(b).62
As § 103 makes clear, copyright is not a tool by which a compilation author may keep others from using the facts or data he or she has collected. "The most important point here is one that is commonly misunderstood today: copyright. . . has no effect one way or the other on the copyright or public domain status of the preexisting material." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 55. The 1909 Act did not require, as "sweat of the brow" courts mistakenly assumed, that each subsequent compiler must start from scratch and is precluded from relying on research undertaken by another. See, e.g., Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., 281 F., at 88-89. Rather, the facts contained in existing works may be freely copied because copyright protects only the elements that owe their origin to the compiler—the selection, coordination, and arrangement of facts.63
In summary, the 1976 revisions to the Copyright Act leave no doubt that originality, not "sweat of the brow," is the touchstone of copyright protection in directories and other fact-based works. Nor is there any doubt that the same was true under the 1909 Act. The 1976 revisions were a direct response to the Copyright Office's concern that many lower courts had misconstrued this basic principle, and Congress emphasized repeatedly that the purpose of the revisions was to clarify, not change, existing law. The revisions explain with painstaking clarity that copyright requires originality, § 102(a); that facts are never original, § 102(b); that the copyright in a compilation does not extend to the facts it contains, § 103(b); and that a compilation is copyrightable only to the extent that it features an original selection, coordination, or arrangement, § 101.64
The 1976 revisions have proven largely successful in steering courts in the right direction. A good example is Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d, at 1369-1370: "A copyright in a directory . . . is properly viewed as resting on the originality of the selection and arrangement of the factual material, rather than on the industriousness of the efforts to develop the information. Copyright protection does not extend to the facts themselves, and the mere use of information contained in a directory without a substantial copying of the format does not constitute infringement" (citation omitted). Additionally, the Second Circuit, which almost 70 years ago issued the classic formulation of the "sweat of the brow" doctrine in Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., has now fully repudiated the reasoning of that decision. See, e. g., Financial Information, Inc. v. Moody's Investors Service, Inc., 808 F. 2d 204, 207 (CA2 1986), cert. denied, 484 U. S. 820 (1987); Financial Information, Inc. v. Moody's Investors Service, Inc., 751 F. 2d 501, 510 (CA2 1984) (Newman, J., concurring); Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F. 2d 972, 979 (CA2 1980). Even those scholars who believe that "industrious collection" should be rewarded seem to recognize that this is beyond the scope of existing copyright law. See Denicola 516 ("[T]he very vocabulary of copyright is ill suited to analyzing property rights in works of nonfiction"); id., at 520-521, 525; Ginsburg 1867, 1870.65
There is no doubt that Feist took from the white pages of Rural's directory a substantial amount of factual information. At a minimum, Feist copied the names, towns, and telephone numbers of 1,309 of Rural's subscribers. Not all copying, however, is copyright infringement. To establish infringement, two elements must be proven: (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. See Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 548. The first element is not at issue here; Feist appears to concede that Rural's directory, considered as a whole, is subject to a valid copyright because it contains some foreword text, as well as original material in its yellow pages advertisements. See Brief for Petitioner 18; Pet. for Cert. 9.67
The question is whether Rural has proved the second element. In other words, did Feist, by taking 1,309 names, towns, and telephone numbers from Rural's white pages, copy anything that was "original" to Rural? Certainly, the raw data does not satisfy the originality requirement. Rural may have been the first to discover and report the names, towns, and telephone numbers of its subscribers, but this data does not "ow[e] its origin'" to Rural. Burrow-Giles, 111 U. S., at 58. Rather, these bits of information are uncopyrightable facts; they existed before Rural reported them and would have continued to exist if Rural had never published a telephone directory. The originality requirement "rule[s] out protecting . . . names, addresses, and telephone numbers of which the plaintiff by no stretch of the imagination could be called the author." Patterson & Joyce 776.68
Rural essentially concedes the point by referring to the names, towns, and telephone numbers as "preexisting material." Brief for Respondent 17. Section 103(b) states explicitly that the copyright in a compilation does not extend to "the preexisting material employed in the work."69
The question that remains is whether Rural selected, coordinated, or arranged these uncopyrightable facts in an original way. As mentioned, originality is not a stringent standard; it does not require that facts be presented in an innovative or surprising way. It is equally true, however, that the selection and arrangement of facts cannot be so mechanical or routine as to require no creativity whatsoever. The standard of originality is low, but it does exist. See Patterson & Joyce 760, n. 144 ("While this requirement is sometimes characterized as modest, or a low threshold, it is not without effect") (internal quotation marks omitted; citations omitted). As this Court has explained, the Constitution mandates some minimal degree of creativity, see The Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U. S., at 94; and an author who claims infringement must prove "the existence of . . . intellectual production, of thought, and conception." Burrow-Giles, supra, at 59-60.70
The selection, coordination, and arrangement of Rural's white pages do not satisfy the minimum constitutional standards for copyright protection. As mentioned at the outset, Rural's white pages are entirely typical. Persons desiring' telephone service in Rural's service area fill out an application and Rural issues them a telephone number. In preparing its white pages, Rural simply takes the data provided by its subscribers and lists it alphabetically by surname. The end product is a garden-variety white pages directory, devoid of even the slightest trace of creativity.71
Rural's selection of listings could not be more obvious: It publishes the most basic information—name, town, and telephone number—about each person who applies to it for telephone service. This is "selection" of a sort, but it lacks the modicum of creativity necessary to transform mere selection into copyrightable expression. Rural expended sufficient effort to make the white pages directory useful, but insufficient creativity to make it original.72
We note in passing that the selection featured in Rural's white pages may also fail the originality requirement for another reason. Feist points out that Rural did not truly "select" to publish the names and telephone numbers of its subscribers; rather, it was required to do so by the Kansas Corporation Commission as part of its monopoly franchise. See 737 F. Supp., at 612. Accordingly, one could plausibly conclude that this selection was dictated by state law, not by Rural.73
Nor can Rural claim originality in its coordination and arrangement of facts. The white pages do nothing more than list Rural's subscribers in alphabetical order. This arrangement may, technically speaking, owe its origin to Rural; no one disputes that Rural undertook the task of alphabetizing the names itself. But there is nothing remotely creative about arranging names alphabetically in a white pages directory. It is an age-old practice, firmly rooted in tradition and so commonplace that it has come to be expected as a matter of course. See Brief for Information Industry Association et al. as Amici Curiae 10 (alphabetical arrangement "is universally observed in directories published by local exchange telephone companies"). It is not only unoriginal, it is practically inevitable. This time-honored tradition does not possess the minimal creative spark required by the Copyright Act and the Constitution.74
We conclude that the names, towns, and telephone numbers copied by Feist were not original to Rural and therefore were not protected by the copyright in Rural's combined white and yellow pages directory. As a constitutional matter, copyright protects only those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity. Rural's white pages, limited to basic subscriber information and arranged alphabetically, fall short of the mark. As a statutory matter, 17 U. S. C. § 101 does not afford protection from copying to a collection of facts that are selected, coordinated, and arranged in a way that utterly lacks originality. Given that some works must fail, we cannot imagine a more likely candidate. Indeed, were we to hold that Rural's white pages pass muster, it is hard to believe that any collection of facts could fail.75
Because Rural's white pages lack the requisite originality, Feist's use of the listings cannot constitute infringement. This decision should not be construed as demeaning Rural's efforts in compiling its directory, but rather as making clear that copyright rewards originality, not effort. As this Court noted more than a century ago, "`great praise may be due to the plaintiffs for their industry and enterprise in publishing this paper, yet the law does not contemplate their being rewarded in this way.'" Baker v. Selden, 101 U. S., at 105.76
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is77
JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the judgment.79
 Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Association of North American Directory Publishers et al. by Theodore Case Whitehouse; for the International Association of Cross Reference Directory Publishers by Richard D. Grauer and Kathleen McCree Lewis; and for the Third-Class Mail Association by Ian D. Volner.80
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for Ameritech et al. by Michael K. Kellogg, Charles Rothfeld, Douglas J. Kirk, Thomas P. Hester, and Harlan Sherwat; for the Association of American Publishers, Inc., by Robert G. Sugarman and R. Bruce Rich; for GTE Corp. by Kirk K. Van Tine, Richard M. Cahill, and Edward R. Sublett; for the National Telephone Cooperative Association by L. Marie Guillory and David Cosson; for the United States Telephone Association by Richard J. Rappaport and Keith P. Schoeneberger; and for West Publishing Co. by Vance K. Opperman and James E. Schatz.81
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for Bellsouth Corp. by Anthony B. Askew, Robert E. Richards, Walter H. Alford, and Vincent L. Sgrosso; for the Direct Marketing Association, Inc., by Robert L. Sherman; for Haines and Co., Inc., by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Bernard A. Barken, and Eugene Gressman; and for the Information Industry Association et al. by Steven J. Metalitz and Angela Burnett.82
 The Court ultimately rendered judgment for Associated Press on non-copyright grounds that are not relevant here. See 248 U. S., at 235, 241-242.
 Mary D. Dorman, for Plaintiff.7
S. Raye Mitchell, The Mitchell Law Group, PC, for Defendants.8
KAPLAN, District Judge.10
The parties dispute whether a photograph used in billboard advertisements for  Coors Light beer infringes the plaintiff's copyright in a photograph of a basketball star. The defendants almost certainly imitated the plaintiff's photograph. The major question is whether and to what extent what was copied is protected. The case requires the Court to consider the nature of copyright protection in photographs. The matter is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment.11
Jonathan Mannion is a freelance photographer who specializes in portraits of celebrity athletes and musicians in the rap and rhythm-and-blues worlds. In 1999 he was hired by SLAM, a basketball magazine, to photograph basketball star Kevin Garnett in connection with an article that the magazine planned to publish about him. The article, entitled "Above the Clouds," appeared as the cover story of the December 1999 issue of the magazine. It was accompanied by a number of Mannion's photographs of Garnett, including the one at issue here (the "Garnett Photograph"), which was printed on a two-page spread introducing the article.13
The Garnett Photograph, which is reproduced below, is a three-quarter-length portrait of Garnett against a backdrop of clouds with some blue sky shining through. The view is up and across the right side of Garnett's torso, so that he appears to be towering above earth. He wears a white T-shirt, white athletic pants, a black close-fitting cap, and a large amount of platinum, gold, and diamond jewelry ("bling bling" in the vernacular), including several necklaces, a Rolex watch and bracelet on his left wrist, bracelets on his right wrist, rings on one finger of each hand, and earrings. His head is cocked, his eyes are closed, and his heavily-veined hands, nearly all of which are visible, rest over his lower abdomen, with the thumbs hooked on the waistband of the trousers. The light is from the viewer's left, so that Garnett's right shoulder is the brightest area of the photograph and his hands cast slight shadows on his trousers. As reproduced in the magazine, the photograph cuts off much of Garnett's left arm.14
In early 2001, defendant Carol H. Williams Advertising ("CHWA") began developing ideas for outdoor billboards that would advertise Coors Light beer to young black men in urban areas. One of CHWA's "comp boards" — a "comp board" is an image created by an advertising company to convey a proposed design — used a manipulated version of the Garnett Photograph and superimposed on it the words "Iced Out" ("ice" being slang for diamonds) and a picture of a can of Coors Light beer (the "Iced Out Comp Board").  CHWA obtained authorization from Mannion's representative to use the Garnett Photograph for this purpose.15
The Iced Out Comp Board, reproduced below, used a black-and-white, mirror image of the Garnett Photograph, but with the head cropped out on top and part of the fingers cropped out below. CHWA forwarded its comp boards to, and solicited bids for the photograph for the Coors advertising from, various photographers including Mannion, who submitted a bid but did not receive the assignment.16
Coors and CHWA selected for a Coors billboard a photograph (the "Coors Billboard"), reproduced below, that resembles the Iced Out Comp Board. The Coors Billboard depicts, in black-and-white, the torso of a muscular black man, albeit a model other than Garnett, shot against a cloudy backdrop. The pose is similar to that in the Garnett Photograph, and the view also is up and across the left side of the torso. The model in the billboard photograph also wears a white T-shirt and white athletic pants. The model's jewelry is prominently depicted; it includes a necklace of platinum or gold and diamonds, a watch and two bracelets on the right wrist, and more bracelets on the left wrist. The light comes from the viewer's right, so that the left shoulder is the brightest part of the photograph, and the right arm and hand cast slight shadows on the trousers.17
Mannion subsequently noticed the Coors Billboard at two locations in the Los Angeles area. He applied for registration of his copyright of the Garnett Photograph in 2003 and brought this action for infringement in February of 2004. The registration was completed in May 2004. The parties each move for summary judgment.18
Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. "Where cross-motions for summary judgment are filed, a court `must evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration.'" 21
"To prove infringement, a plaintiff with a valid copyright must demonstrate that: (1) the defendant has actually copied the plaintiff's work; and (2) the copying is illegal because a substantial similarity exists between the defendant's work and the protectible elements of plaintiff's." "Actual copying" — which is used as a term of art to mean that "the defendant, in creating its work, used the plaintiff's material as a model, template, or even inspiration" — may be shown by direct evidence, which rarely is available, or by proof of access and probative similarities (as distinguished from "substantial similarity") between the two works.23
Mannion concededly owns a valid copyright in the Garnett photograph. Access is undisputed. There is ample evidence from which a trier of fact could find that CHWA actually copied the Garnett Photograph for the Coors Billboard. Thus, the major questions presented by these motions are whether a trier of fact could or must find substantial similarity between protected elements of the Garnett Photograph and the Coors Billboard. If no reasonable trier could find such similarity,  the defendants' motion must be granted and the plaintiff's denied. If any reasonable trier would be obliged to find such similarity (along with actual copying), the plaintiff's motion must be granted and the defendants' denied. If a reasonable trier could, but would not be required to, find substantial similarity (and actual copying), both motions must be denied.24
The first question must be: in what respects is the Garnett Photograph protectible?26
It is well-established that "[t]he sine qua non of copyright is originality" and, accordingly, that "copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author." "Original" in the copyright context "means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity."28
It sometimes is said that "copyright in the photograph conveys no rights over the subject matter conveyed in the photograph." But this is not always true. It of course is correct that the photographer of a building or tree or other pre-existing object has no right to prevent others from photographing the same thing. That is because originality depends upon independent creation, and the photographer did not create that object. By contrast, if a photographer arranges or otherwise creates the subject that his camera captures, he may have the right to prevent others from producing works that depict that subject.29
Almost any photograph "may claim the necessary originality to support a copyright." Indeed, ever since the Supreme Court considered an 1882 portrait by the celebrity photographer Napoleon Sarony of the 27-year-old Oscar Wilde, courts have articulated lists of potential components of a photograph's originality.  These lists, however, are somewhat unsatisfactory.30
First, they do not deal with the issue, alluded to above, that the nature and extent of a photograph's protection differs depending on what makes that photograph original.31
Second, courts have not always distinguished between decisions that a photographer makes in creating a photograph and the originality of the final product. Several cases, for example, have included in lists of the potential components of photographic originality "selection of film and camera," "lens and filter selection," and "the kind of camera, the kind of film, [and] the kind of lens." Having considered the matter fully, however, I think this is not sufficiently precise. Decisions about film, camera, and lens, for example, often bear on whether an image is original. But the fact that a photographer made such choices does not alone make the image original. "Sweat of the brow" is not the touchstone of copyright. Protection derives from the features of the work itself, not the effort that goes into it.32
This point is illustrated by Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., in which this Court held that there was no copyright in photographic transparencies that sought to reproduce precisely paintings in the public domain. To be sure, a great deal of effort and expertise may have been poured into the production of the plaintiff's images, including decisions about camera, lens, and film. But the works were "slavish copies." They did not exhibit the originality necessary for copyright.33
The Court therefore will examine more closely the nature of originality in a photograph. In so doing, it draws on the helpful discussion in a leading treatise on United Kingdom copyright law, which is  similar to our own with respect to the requirement of originality.34
A photograph may be original in three respects. They are not mutually exclusive.35
First, "there may be originality which does not depend on creation of the scene or object to be photographed ... and which resides [instead] in such specialties as angle of shot, light and shade, exposure, effects achieved by means of filters, developing techniques etc." I will refer to this type of originality as originality in the rendition because, to the extent a photograph is original in this way, copyright protects not what is depicted, but rather how it is depicted.37
It was originality in the rendition that was at issue in SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc. That case concerned photographs of the defendants' mirrored picture frames that the defendants commissioned from the plaintiff. The photographs were to be used by the defendants' sales force for in-person pitches. When the defendants reproduced the photographs in their catalogues and brochures, the court found infringement: "Plaintiff cannot prevent others from photographing the same frames, or using the same lighting techniques and blue sky reflection in the mirrors. What makes plaintiff's photographs original is the totality of the precise lighting selection, angle of the camera, lens and filter selection." Again, what made the photographs original was not the lens and filter selection themselves. It was the effect produced by the lens and filters selected, among other things. In any case, those effects were the basis of the originality of the works at issue in SHL Imaging.38
By contrast, in Bridgeman Art Library, the goal was to reproduce exactly other works. The photographs were entirely unoriginal in the rendition, an extremely unusual circumstance. Unless a photograph replicates another work with total or near-total fidelity, it will be at least somewhat original in the rendition.39
A photograph may be original in a second respect. "[A] person may create a worthwhile photograph by being at the right place at the right time." I will  refer to this type of originality as originality in timing.41
One case that concerned originality in timing, among other things, was Pagano v. Chas. Beseler Co., which addressed the copyrightability of a photograph of a scene in front of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street:42
The question is not, as defendant suggests, whether the photograph of a public building may properly be copyrighted. Any one may take a photograph of a public building and of the surrounding scene. It undoubtedly requires originality to determine just when to take the photograph, so as to bring out the proper setting for both animate and inanimate objects.... The photographer caught the men and women in not merely lifelike, but artistic, positions, and this is especially true of the traffic policeman.... There are other features, which need not be discussed in detail, such as the motor cars waiting for the signal to proceed.
A modern work strikingly original in timing might be Catch of the Day, by noted wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, which depicts a salmon that appears to be jumping into the gaping mouth of a brown bear at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. An older example is Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph of a sailor kissing a young woman on VJ Day in Times Square, the memorability of which is attributable in significant part to the timing of its creation.44
Copyright based on originality in timing is limited by the principle that copyright in a photograph ordinarily confers no rights over the subject matter. Thus, the copyright in Catch of the Day does not protect against subsequent photographs of bears feasting on salmon in the same location. Furthermore, if another photographer were sufficiently skilled and fortunate to capture a salmon at the precise moment that it appeared to enter a hungry bear's mouth — and others have tried, with varying degrees of success — that photographer, even if inspired by Mangelsen, would not necessarily have infringed his work because Mangelsen's copyright does not extend to the natural world he captured.45
In practice, originality in timing gives rise to the same type of protection as originality in the rendition. In each case, the image that exhibits the originality, but not the underlying subject, qualifies for copyright protection.46
The principle that copyright confers no right over the subject matter has an important limitation. A photograph may be original to the extent that the photographer created "the scene or subject to be photographed." This type of originality, which I will refer to as originality in the creation of the subject, played an essential role in Rogers v. Koons and Gross v. Seligman.48
 In Rogers, the court held that the copyright in the plaintiff's photograph Puppies, which depicted a contrived scene of the photographer's acquaintance, Jim Scanlon, and his wife on a park bench with eight puppies on their laps, protected against the defendants' attempt to replicate precisely, albeit in a three dimensional sculpture, the content of the photograph. Although the Circuit noted that Puppies was original because the artist "made creative judgments concerning technical matters with his camera and the use of natural light" — in other words, because it was original in the rendition — its originality in the creation of the subject was more salient. The same is true of the works at issue in Gross v. Seligman, in which the Circuit held that the copyright in a photograph named Grace of Youth was infringed when the same artist created a photograph named Cherry Ripe using "the same model in the identical pose, with the single exception that the young woman now wears a smile and holds a cherry stem between her teeth."49
* * * * * *50
To conclude, the nature and extent of protection conferred by the copyright in a photograph will vary depending on the nature of its originality. Insofar as a photograph is original in the rendition or timing, copyright protects the image but does not prevent others from photographing the same object or scene. Thus, the copyright at issue in SHL Imaging does not protect against subsequent photographs of the picture frames because the originality of the plaintiffs' photographs was almost purely in the rendition of those frames, not in their creation or the timing of the scene captured. In Pagano, the timing of the capture of the scene in front of the New York Public Library and its rendition were original, but the copyright in the Pagano photograph does not protect against future attempts to capture a scene in front of the same building, just as a copyright in Catch of the Day would not protect against other photographers capturing images of salmon-eating bears.51
By contrast, to the extent that a photograph is original in the creation of the subject, copyright extends also to that subject. Thus, an artist who arranges and then photographs a scene often will have the right to prevent others from duplicating that scene in a photograph or other medium.52
There can be no serious dispute that the Garnett Photograph is an original  work. The photograph does not result from slavishly copying another work and therefore is original in the rendition. Mannion's relatively unusual angle and distinctive lighting strengthen that aspect of the photograph's originality. His composition — posing man against sky — evidences originality in the creation of the subject. Furthermore, Mannion instructed Garnett to wear simple and plain clothing and as much jewelry as possible, and "to look 'chilled out.'" His orchestration of the scene contributes additional originality in the creation of the subject.54
Of course, there are limits to the photograph's originality and therefore to the protection conferred by the copyright in the Garnett Photograph. For example, Kevin Garnett's face, torso, and hands are not original with Mannion, and Mannion therefore may not prevent others from creating photographic portraits of Garnett. Equally obviously, the existence of a cloudy sky is not original, and Mannion therefore may not prevent others from using a cloudy sky as a backdrop.55
The defendants, however, take this line of reasoning too far. They argue that it was Garnett, not Mannion, who selected the specific clothing, jewelry, and pose. In consequence, they maintain, the Garnett Photograph is not original to the extent of Garnett's clothing, jewelry, and pose. They appear to be referring to originality in the creation of the subject.56
There are two problems with the defendants' argument. The first is that Mannion indisputably orchestrated the scene, even if he did not plan every detail before he met Garnett, and then made the decision to capture it. The second difficulty is that the originality of the photograph extends beyond the individual clothing, jewelry, and pose viewed in isolation. It is the entire image — depicting man, sky, clothing, and jewelry in a particular arrangement — that is at issue here, not its individual components. The Second Circuit has rejected the proposition that:57
in comparing designs for copyright infringement, we are required to dissect them into their separate components, and compare only those elements which are in themselves copyrightable.... [I]f we took this argument to its logical conclusion, we might have to decide that `there can be no originality in a painting because all colors of paint have been used somewhere in the past.
Notwithstanding the originality of the Garnett Photograph, the defendants argue that the Coors Billboard does not infringe because the two, insofar as they are similar, share only "the generalized idea and concept of a young African American man wearing a white T-shirt and a large amount of jewelry."60
It is true that an axiom of copyright law is that copyright does not protect "ideas," only their expression. Furthermore, when "a given idea is inseparably tied to a particular expression" so that "there is a `merger' of idea and expression,"  courts may deny protection to the expression in order to avoid conferring a monopoly on the idea to which it inseparably is tied. But the defendants' reliance on these principles is misplaced.61
The "idea" (if one wants to call it that) postulated by the defendants does not even come close to accounting for all the similarities between the two works, which extend at least to angle, pose, background, composition, and lighting. It is possible to imagine any number of depictions of a black man wearing a white T-shirt and "bling bling" that look nothing like either of the photographs at issue here.62
This alone is sufficient to dispose of the defendants' contention that Mannion's claims must be rejected because he seeks to protect an idea rather than its expression. But the argument reveals an analytical difficulty in the case law about which more ought to be said. One of the main cases upon which the defendants rely is Kaplan v. Stock Market Photo Agency, Inc., in which two remarkably similar photographs of a businessman's shoes and lower legs, taken from the top of a tall building looking down on a street below (the plaintiff's and defendants' photographs are reproduced below), were held to be not substantially similar as a matter of law because all of the similarities flowed only from an unprotected idea rather than from the expression of that idea.63
But what is the "idea" of Kaplan's photograph? Is it (1) a businessman contemplating suicide by jumping from a building, (2) a businessman contemplating suicide by jumping from a building, seen from the vantage point of the businessman, with his shoes set against the street far below, or perhaps something more general, such as (3) a sense of desperation produced by urban professional life?64
If the "idea" is (1) or, for that matter, (3), then the similarities between the two photographs flow from something much more than that idea, for it have would been possible to convey (1) (and (3)) in any number of ways that bear no obvious similarities to Kaplan's photograph. (Examples are a businessman atop a building seen from below, or the entire figure of the businessman, rather than just his shoes or pants, seen from above.) If, on the other hand, the "idea" is (2), then the two works could be said to owe much of their similarity to a shared idea.65
 To be sure, the difficulty of distinguishing between idea and expression long has been recognized. Judge Learned Hand famously observed in 1930:66
Upon any work, and especially upon a play, a great number of patterns of increasing generality will fit equally well, as more and more of the incident is left out. The last may perhaps be no more than the most general statement of what the play is about, and at times might consist only of its title; but there is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the playwright could prevent the use of his `ideas,' to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended. Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary, and nobody ever can.
Three decades later, Judge Hand's views were essentially the same: "The test for infringement of a copyright is of necessity vague.... Obviously, no principle can be stated as to when an imitator has gone beyond copying the `idea,' and has borrowed its `expression.' Decisions must therefore inevitably be ad hoc." Since then, the Second Circuit and other authorities repeatedly have echoed these sentiments.68
But there is a difference between the sort of difficulty Judge Hand identified in Nichols and Peter Pan Fabrics and the one presented by the Kaplan rationale and the defendants' argument about ideas in this case. The former difficulty is essentially one of line-drawing, and, as Judge Hand taught, is common to most cases in most areas of the law. The latter difficulty,  however, is not simply that it is not always clear where to draw the line; it is that the line itself is meaningless because the conceptual categories it purports to delineate are ill-suited to the subject matter.69
The idea/expression distinction arose in the context of literary copyright. For the most part, the Supreme Court has not applied it outside that context. The classic Hand formulations reviewed above also were articulated in the context of literary works. And it makes sense to speak of the idea conveyed by a literary work and to distinguish it from its expression. To take a clear example, two different authors each can describe, with very different words, the theory of special relativity. The words will be protected as expression. The theory is a set of unprotected ideas.70
In the visual arts, the distinction breaks down. For one thing, it is impossible in most cases to speak of the particular "idea" captured, embodied, or conveyed by a work of art because every observer will have a different interpretation. Furthermore, it is not clear that there is any real distinction between the idea in a work of art and its expression. An artist's idea, among other things, is to depict a particular subject in a particular way. As a demonstration, a number of cases from this Circuit have observed that a photographer's "conception" of his subject is copyrightable. By "conception," the courts must mean originality in the rendition, timing, and creation of the subject — for that is what copyright protects in photography. But the word "conception" is a cousin of "concept," and both are akin to "idea." In other words, those elements of a photograph, or indeed, any work of visual art protected by copyright, could just as  easily be labeled "idea" as "expression."71
This Court is not the first to question the usefulness of the idea/expression terminology in the context of non-verbal media. Judge Hand pointed out in Peter Pan Fabrics that whereas "[i]n the case of verbal `works', it is well settled that ... there can be no copyright in the `ideas' disclosed but only in their `expression[,]'" "[i]n the case of designs, which are addressed to the aesthetic sensibilities of the observer, the test is, if possible, even more intangible." Moreover, Judge Newman has written:72
I do not deny that all of these subject matters [computer programs, wooden dolls, advertisements in a telephone directory] required courts to determine whether the first work was copyrightable and whether the second infringed protectable elements. What I question is whether courts should be making those determinations with the same modes of analysis and even the same vocabulary that was appropriate for writings.... [I]t is not just a matter of vocabulary. Words convey concepts, and if we use identical phrases from one context to resolve issues in another, we risk failing to notice that the relevant concepts are and ought to be somewhat different.
He then referred to dicta from his own decision in Warner Bros. v. American Broadcasting Companies, explaining: "I was saying ... [that] one cannot divide a visual work into neat layers of abstraction in precisely the same manner one could with a text." The Third Circuit has made a similar point:74
Troublesome, too, is the fact that the same general principles are applied in claims involving plays, novels, sculpture, maps, directories of information, musical compositions, as well as artistic paintings. Isolating the idea from the expression and determining the extent of copying required for unlawful appropriation necessarily depend to some degree on whether the subject matter is words or symbols written on paper, or paint brushed onto canvas.
For all of these reasons, I think little is gained by attempting to distinguish an unprotectible "idea" from its protectible "expression" in a photograph or other work of visual art. It remains, then, to consider just what courts have been referring to  when they have spoken of the "idea" in a photograph.76
A good example is Rogers v. Koons, in which the court observed that "[i]t is not ... the idea of a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench that is protected, but rather Rogers' expression of this idea — as caught in the placement, in the particular light, and in the expressions of the subjects...." But "a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench" is not necessarily the idea of Puppies, which just as easily could be "people with dogs on their laps," "the bliss of owning puppies," or even a sheepishly ironic thought such as "Ha ha! This might look cute now, but boy are these puppies going to be a lot of work!"77
Rather, "a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench" is nothing more or less than what "a young African American man wearing a white T-shirt and a large amount of jewelry" is: a description of the subject at a level of generality sufficient to avoid implicating copyright protection for an original photograph. Other copyright cases that have referred to the "idea" of a photograph also used "idea" to mean a general description of the subject or subject matter. The Kaplan decision even used these terms interchangeably: "The subject matter of both photographs is a businessperson contemplating a leap from a tall building onto the city street below. As the photograph's central idea, rather than Kaplan's expression of the idea, this subject matter is unprotectable in and of itself." Thus another photographer  may pose a couple with eight puppies on a bench, depict a businessman contemplating a leap from an office building onto a street, or take a picture of a black man in white athletic wear and showy jewelry. In each case, however, there would be infringement (assuming actual copying and ownership of a valid copyright) if the subject and rendition were sufficiently like those in the copyrighted work.78
This discussion of course prompts the question: at what point do the similarities between two photographs become sufficiently general that there will be no infringement even though actual copying has occurred? But this question is precisely the same, although phrased in the opposite way, as one that must be addressed in all infringement cases, namely whether two works are substantially similar with respect to their protected elements. It is nonsensical to speak of one photograph being substantially similar to another in the rendition and creation of the subject but somehow not infringing because of a shared idea. Conversely, if the two photographs are not substantially similar in the rendition and creation of the subject, the distinction between idea and expression will be irrelevant because there can be no infringement. The idea/expression distinction in photography, and probably the other visual arts, thus achieves nothing beyond what other, clearer copyright principles already accomplish.79
I recognize that those principles sometimes may pose a problem like that Judge Hand identified with distinguishing idea from expression in the literary context. As Judge Hand observed, however, such line-drawing difficulties appear in all areas of the law. The important thing is that the categories at issue be useful and relevant, even if their precise boundaries are sometimes difficult to delineate. In the context of photography, the idea/expression distinction is not useful or relevant.80
The next step is to determine whether a trier of fact could or must find the Coors Billboard substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph with respect to their protected elements.82
Substantial similarity ultimately is a question of fact. "The standard test for substantial similarity between two items is whether an `ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard [the] aesthetic appeal as the same.'" The Second Circuit sometimes has applied a "more discerning observer" test when a work contains both protectible and unprotectible elements. The test "requires the court to eliminate the unprotectible elements from its consideration and to ask whether the protectible elements, standing alone, are substantially similar." The Circuit, however, is ambivalent about this test. In several cases dealing with fabric and garment designs, the Circuit has cautioned that:83
 a court is not to dissect the works at issue into separate components and compare only the copyrightable elements.... To do so would be to take the `more discerning' test to an extreme, which would result in almost nothing being copyrightable because original works broken down into their composite parts would usually be little more than basic unprotectible elements like letters, colors and symbols.
Dissecting the works into separate components and comparing only the copyrightable elements, however, appears to be exactly what the "more discerning observer" test calls for.85
The Circuit indirectly spoke to this tension in the recent case of Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc. There the trial court purported to use the more discerning observer test but nonetheless compared the "total-concept-and-feel" of carpet designs. The Circuit observed that the more discerning observer test is "intended to emphasize that substantial similarity must exist between the defendant's allegedly infringing design and the protectible elements in the plaintiff's design." In making its own comparison, the Circuit did not mention the "more discerning observer" test at all, but it did note that:86
"the total-concept-and-feel locution functions as a reminder that, while the infringement analysis must begin by dissecting the copyrighted work into its component parts in order to clarify precisely what is not original, infringement analysis is not simply a matter of ascertaining similarity between components viewed in isolation.... The court, confronted with an allegedly infringing work, must analyze the two works closely to figure out in what respects, if any, they are similar, and then determine whether these similarities are due to protected aesthetic expressions original to the allegedly infringed work, or whether the similarity is to something in the original that is free for the taking."87
In light of these precedents, the Court concludes that it is immaterial whether the ordinary or more discerning observer test is used here because the inquiries would be identical. The cases agree that the relevant comparison is between the protectible elements in the Garnett Photograph and the Coors Billboard, but that those elements are not to be viewed in isolation.88
The Garnett Photograph is protectible to the extent of its originality in the rendition and creation of the subject. Key elements of the Garnett Photograph that are in the public domain — such as Kevin Garnett's likeness — are not replicated in the Coors Billboard. Other elements arguably in the public domain — such as the existence of a cloudy sky, Garnett's pose, his white T-shirt, and his specific jewelry — may not be copyrightable in and of themselves, but their existence and arrangement in this photograph indisputably contribute to its originality. Thus the fact that the Garnett Photograph includes certain elements that would not be copyrightable in isolation does not affect the nature of the comparison. The question is whether the aesthetic appeal of the two images is the same.89
The two photographs share a similar composition and angle. The lighting is similar, and both use a cloudy sky as backdrop.  The subjects are wearing similar clothing and similar jewelry arranged in a similar way. The defendants, in other words, appear to have recreated much of the subject that Mannion had created and then, through imitation of angle and lighting, rendered it in a similar way. The similarities here thus relate to the Garnett Photograph's originality in the rendition and the creation of the subject and therefore to its protected elements.90
There of course are differences between the two works. The similarity analysis may take into account some, but not all, of these. It long has been the law that "no plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate." Thus the addition of the words "Iced Out" and a can of Coors Light beer may not enter into the similarity analysis.91
Other differences, however, are in the nature of changes rather than additions. One image is black and white and dark, the other is in color and bright. One is the mirror image of the other. One depicts only an unidentified man's torso, the other the top three-fourths of Kevin Garnett's body. The jewelry is not identical. One T-shirt appears to fit more tightly than the other. These changes may enter the analysis because "[i]f the points of dissimilarity not only exceed the points of similarity, but indicate that the remaining points of similarity are, within the context of plaintiff's work, of minimal importance... then no infringement results."92
The parties have catalogued at length and in depth the similarities and differences between these works. In the last analysis, a reasonable jury could find substantial similarity either present or absent. As in Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., which presents facts as close to this case as can be imagined, the images are such that infringement cannot be ruled out — or in — as a matter of law.93
The defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint (docket item 18) is granted to the extent that the complaint seeks relief for violation of the plaintiff's exclusive right to prepare derivative works and otherwise denied. The plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment is denied.95
 Mannion Decl. ¶ 1.99
 Id. ¶ 3.100
 See Pl.Ex. A.101
 See id.; Def. Ex. A; Am. Cpt. Ex. B.102
 Published opinions in copyright cases concerning graphical works do not often include reproductions of those works. Two exceptions are Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1014-17 (2d Cir.1995) and Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 237 F.Supp.2d 376, 390-93 (S.D.N.Y.2002). Such reproductions are helpful in understanding the opinions, even if the images are not ideal because the West reporters print in black and white.103
 Def. Ex. A; Pl.Ex. A; Am. Cpt. Ex. B; Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, 7-8.104
 Cook Decl. ¶ 2.105
 See Mannion Decl. ¶ 12; Cook Decl. ¶ 4; Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 292 (S.D.N.Y.2002).106
 See, e.g., AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY 868 (4th ed.2000).107
 See Cook Decl. ¶¶ 3, 5; Pl.Ex. B.108
 See Cook Decl. ¶ 5; Def. Ex. B.109
The authorization was for "[u]sage in internal corporate merchandising catalog," Def. Ex. B, which Mannion concedes extended to the Iced Out Comp Board. See Pl. Opening Mem. 2; Pl. Reply Mem. 2.110
 See Pl.Ex. B.111
 Cook Decl. ¶ 6; Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 12, 17-19.112
 See Def. Ex. C; Am. Cpt. Ex. C.113
 Cook Decl. ¶ 7.114
 See Def. Ex. C; Am. Cpt. Ex. C.115
 Mannion Decl. ¶ 20.116
 Am. Cpt. Ex. A.117
 FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); White v. ABCO Eng'g Corp., 221 F.3d 293, 300 (2d Cir.2000).119
 Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).120
 United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962); Hetchkop v. Woodlawn at Grassmere, Inc., 116 F.3d 28, 33 (2d Cir.1997).121
 Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union, Local 100 v. City of New York Dep't of Parks & Recreation, 311 F.3d 534, 543 (2d Cir.2002) (quoting Heublein, Inc. v. United States, 996 F.2d 1455, 1461 (2d Cir.1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)); accord Make the Road by Walking, Inc. v. Turner, 378 F.3d 133, 142 (2d Cir.2004).122
 Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1002 (2d Cir.1995) (second emphasis added) (quoting Fisher-Price, Inc. v. Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp., 25 F.3d 119, 122-23 (2d Cir.1994)); accord Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 338 F.3d 127, 131 (2d Cir.2003) (citing Castle Rock Entm't, Inc. v. Carol Publ'g Group, Inc., 150 F.3d 132, 137-38 (2d Cir.1998)); Boisson v. Banian, Ltd., 273 F.3d 262, 267-68 (2d Cir.2001) (citing Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991) and Streetwise Maps, Inc. v. VanDam, Inc., 159 F.3d 739, 747 (2d Cir.1998)); Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 294 (S.D.N.Y.2002).123
 4 NIMMER ON COPYRIGHT § 13.01[B], at 13-8 ("NIMMER").124
 E.g., Jorgensen v. Epic/Sony Records, 351 F.3d 46, 51 (2d Cir.2003); Boisson, 273 F.3d at 267-68 (citing Laureyssens v. Idea Group, Inc., 964 F.2d 131, 140 (2d Cir.1992)).125
 See Def. Opening Mem. 7; Def. Supp. Mem. 5.126
 Contrary to the implication in some of the plaintiff's papers, see Am. Cpt. ¶¶ 27-29; Pl. Opening Mem. 6; Pl. Supp. Mem. 6-10; see also Tr. (1/27/05) 8-11, 14-19, 25, 30-32, 34-36 ("Tr."), this case does not require a determination whether the defendants have violated the plaintiff's exclusive right under 17 U.S.C. § 106(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the Garnett Photograph. The image used on the Iced Out Comp Board may have been a derivative work based upon the Garnett Photograph, see 17 U.S.C. § 101 (2005), but CHWA obtained the right to use the Garnett Photograph in connection with the Iced Out Comp Board.127
The question whether the Coors Billboard is a derivative work based upon the Garnett Photograph is immaterial. "[A] work will be considered a derivative work only if it would be considered an infringing work" absent consent. 1 NIMMER § 3.01, at 3-4. That is, the infringement inquiry logically precedes or at least controls the derivative work inquiry.128
Finally — again contrary to the plaintiff's suggestion, see Pl. Opening Mem. 9; Pl. Reply Mem. 2-4; Tr. 21-24 — also immaterial is the question whether the Coors Billboard may infringe Mannion's copyright if the Coors Billboard is not substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph but is substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph's hypothesized derivative on the Iced Out Comp Board. Mannion has no registered copyright in the image on the Iced Out Comp Board, which precludes a suit for infringement based upon that image. Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp. v. Goffa Int'l Corp., 354 F.3d 112, 115-117 (2d Cir.2003); 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) (2005).129
The only question in this case is whether the Coors Billboard infringes the copyright in the Garnett Photograph. The only material comparison therefore is between those two images. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed to the extent that it asserts a violation of Mannion's exclusive right to prepare derivative works.130
 Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991).131
 Id. at 348, 111 S.Ct. 1282.132
 Id. at 345, 111 S.Ct. 1282 (citing 1 NIMMER §§ 2.01[A], [B] (1990)).133
 1 NIMMER § 2.08[E], at 2-130.134
 E.g., Caratzas v. Time Life, Inc., No. 92 Civ. 6346(PKL), 1992 WL 322033, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.23, 1992) (observing, in the context of photographs of historic sites, that "Justice Holmes made it clear almost ninety years ago that actionable copying does not occur where a photographer takes a picture of the subject matter depicted in a copyrighted photograph, so long as the second photographer does not copy original aspects of the copyrighted work, such as lighting or placement of the subject.").135
 See Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir.1992); Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930 (2d Cir.1914).136
 1 NIMMER § 2.08[E], at 2-129; see also Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 36 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (S.D.N.Y.1999).137
 See Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 4 S.Ct. 279, 28 L.Ed. 349 (1884); SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 307-08 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (recounting the history of Burrow-Giles with reference to THE WAKING DREAM: PHOTOGRAPHY'S FIRST CENTURY 339-40 (Met. Museum of Art 1993)).138
The photograph at issue in Burrow-Giles is reproduced in MELVILLE B. NIMMER ET AL., CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT 11 (6th ed. 2000) ("CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT").139
 See Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co., 111 U.S. at 60, 4 S.Ct. 279 (originality of Wilde portrait founded upon overall composition, including pose, clothing, background, light, and shade, "suggesting and evoking the desired expression"); Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 137 F.3d 109, 116 (2d Cir.1998) ("Leibovitz is entitled to protection for such artistic elements as the particular lighting, the resulting skin tone of the subject, and the camera angle that she selected."); Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301, 307 (2d Cir.1992) ("Elements of originality in a photograph may include posing the subjects, lighting, angle, selection of film and camera, evoking the desired expression, and almost any other variant involved."); Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930, 931 (2d Cir.1914) ("exercise of artistic talent" reflected in "pose, light, and shade, etc."); SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 311 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("What makes plaintiff's photographs original is the totality of the precise lighting selection, angle of the camera, lens and filter selection."); E. Am. Trio Prods., Inc. v. Tang Elec. Corp., 97 F.Supp.2d 395, 417 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("The necessary originality for a photograph may be founded upon, among other things, the photographer's choice of subject matter, angle of photograph, lighting, determination of the precise time when the photograph is to be taken, the kind of camera, the kind of film, the kind of lens, and the area in which the pictures are taken."); Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 382 (S.D.N.Y.1987) (copyrightable elements of a photograph "include such features as the photographer's selection of lighting, shading, positioning and timing.").140
Even these lists are not complete. They omit such features as the amount of the image in focus, its graininess, and the level of contrast.141
 Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301, 307 (2d Cir.1992).142
 SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 311 (S.D.N.Y.2000).143
 E. Am. Trio Prods., Inc. v. Tang Elec. Corp., 97 F.Supp.2d 395, 417 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (Kaplan, J.)144
 Feist, 499 U.S. at 359-60, 111 S.Ct. 1282.145
 36 F.Supp.2d 191 (S.D.N.Y.1999).146
 Id. at 197; Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 25 F.Supp.2d 421, 427 & nn. 41, 47 (S.D.N.Y.1998).147
 HON. SIR HUGH LADDIE ET AL., THE MODERN LAW OF COPYRIGHT AND DESIGNS (3d ed. Butterworths 2000) ("LADDIE").148
 See Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, c. 48, § 1(1)(a); 1 LADDIE § 1.8.149
 See 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.150
 See Caratzas v. Time Life, Inc., No. 92 Civ. 6346(PKL), 1992 WL 322033, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.23, 1992); Leigh v. Warner Bros., 212 F.3d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.2000); see also Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239, 249, 23 S.Ct. 298, 47 L.Ed. 460 (1903) ("It is obvious also that the plaintiff's case is not affected by the fact, if it be one, that the pictures represent actual groups — visible things. They seem from the testimony to have been composed from hints or description, not from sight.... But even if they had been drawn from the life, that fact would not deprive them of protection. The opposite proposition would mean that a portrait by Velasquez or Whistler was common property because others might try their hand on the same face. Others are free to copy the original. They are not free to copy the copy."); Franklin Mint Corp. v. Nat'l Wildlife Art Exchange, Inc., 575 F.2d 62, 65 (3d Cir.1978) (same); F.W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, 193 F.2d 162, 164 (1st Cir.1951) ("It is the well established rule that a copyright on a work of art does not protect a subject, but only the treatment of a subject."); BENJAMIN KAPLAN, AN UNHURRIED VIEW OF COPYRIGHT 56 (1967) (observing that, with respect to "works of `fine art,'" "the manner of execution is usually of more interest than the subject pictured.").152
 117 F.Supp.2d 301 (S.D.N.Y.2000).153
 Id. at 311.154
 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.155
 234 F. 963 (S.D.N.Y.1916).156
 Id. at 964.157
 A digital image of the photograph may be found at http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/print — 38089.aspx (last visited July 20, 2005).158
 A digital image appears at http://www.gallerym.com/work.cfm? ID=69 (last visited July 20, 2005).159
 See, e.g., http://www.raydoan.com/6140.asp (last visited July 20, 2005); http://www .shusterimages.net/BearsätBrooksFalls.htm (last visited July 20, 2005).160
 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.161
 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir.1992).162
 212 F. 930 (2d Cir.1914).163
 For a reproduction of the works at issue in Rogers v. Koons, see ROBERT C. OSTERBERG & ERIC C. OSTERBERG, SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY IN COPYRIGHT LAW A-24, A-25 (Practising Law Institute 2003).164
 960 F.2d at 304.165
 See id. ("When Rogers went to [Jim Scanlon's] home... he decided that taking a picture of the puppies alone [as Scanlon originally had requested] would not work successfully, and chose instead to include [the Scanlons] holding them.... [Rogers] selected the light, the location, the bench on which the Scanlons are seated and the arrangement of the small dogs.").166
 The two photographs are reproduced in CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT 211.167
 212 F. at 930-31.168
Also part of the court's analysis was the observation that there were "many close identities of ... light and shade." Id.169
 I recognize that the preceding analysis focuses on a medium — traditional print photography — that is being supplanted in significant degree by digital technology. These advancements may or may not demand a different analytical framework.170
 Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 4-7, 9.171
 Def. Reply Mem. 10-11.172
The defendants complain as well that Mannion's declaration does not mention, among other things, the type of film, camera, and filters that he used to produce the Garnett Photograph. Id. at 11. These omissions are irrelevant. As discussed above, originality in the rendition is assessed with respect to the work, not the artist's specific decisions in producing it.173
 Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1003 (2d Cir.1995) (citation omitted).174
 Def. Br. 6.175
 See 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][a]; 17 U.S.C. § 102(b).176
 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B].177
 133 F.Supp.2d 317 (S.D.N.Y.2001).178
 The Kaplan decision itself characterized the "idea" as "a businessperson contemplating a leap from a tall building onto the city street below," see id. at 323, but this characterization does not fully account for the disposition of the case. The court agreed with the defendants that:179
"in order to most accurately express th[is] idea ..., the photograph must be taken from the `jumper's' own viewpoint, which would (i) naturally include the sheer side of the building and the traffic below, and (ii) logically restrict the visible area of the businessperson's body to his shoes and a certain portion of his pants legs.... Thus, the angle and viewpoint used in both photographs are essential to, commonly associated with, and naturally flow from the photograph's unprotectable subject matter.... [T]he most common, and most effective, viewpoint from which the convey the idea of the `jumper' ... remains that of the `jumper' himself." Id. at 326.
The Kaplan court's observations about the angle and viewpoint "essential to" and "commonly associated with," that "naturally flow from," "most accurately express," and "most effective[ly]" convey the "idea of a businessperson's contemplation of a leap" are unpersuasive. Thus, the opinion is best read to hold that the "idea" expressed was that of a businessperson contemplating suicide as seen from his own vantage point because only this reading explains the outcome.181
 Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir.1930) (citation omitted).182
This passage is often referred to as the abstractions test, but it is no such thing. Judge Newman has lamented this parlance and the underlying difficulty it elides: "Judge Hand manifestly did not think of his observations as the enunciation of anything that might be called a `test.' His disclaimer (for himself and everyone else) of the ability to `fix the boundary' should have been sufficient caution that no `test' capable of yielding a result was intended." Hon. Jon O. Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody: The Idea/Expression Dichotomy in the Computer Age, 17 CARDOZO ARTS & ENT. L.J. 691, 694 (1999).183
 Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir.1960).184
 See, e.g., Attia v. Soc'y of the N.Y. Hosp., 201 F.3d 50, 54 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics0; Williams v. Crichton, 84 F.3d 581, 587-588 (2d Cir.1996) ("The distinction between an idea and its expression is an elusive one."); Durham Indus., Inc. v. Tomy Corp., 630 F.2d 905, 912 (2d Cir.1980) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics and characterizing "the idea/expression distinction" as "an imprecise tool"); Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir.1976) (acknowledging that "the demarcation between idea and expression may not be susceptible to overly helpful generalization"); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir.1971) ("At least in close cases, one may suspect, the classification the court selects may simply state the result reached rather than the reason for it."); Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 295 (S.D.N.Y.2002) ("the distinction between the concept and the expression of a concept is a difficult one"); see also BENJAMIN KAPLAN, AN UNHURRIED VIEW OF COPYRIGHT 48 (1967) ("We are in a viscid quandary once we admit that `expression' can consist of anything not close aboard the particular collocation in its sequential order. The job of comparison is not much eased by speaking of patterns, nor is the task of deciding when the monopoly would be too broad for the public convenience made much neater by speaking of ideas and expression. The polarity proposed by Hand is indeed related geneologically to the ancient opposition of idea to form, but the ancestor is not readily recognized in the ambiguous and elusive descendant.").185
 "[W]hile we are as aware as any one that the line, whereever it is drawn, will seem arbitrary, that is no excuse for not drawing it; it is a question such as courts must answer in nearly all cases." Nichols, 45 F.2d at 122.186
 There appears to be no Supreme Court case explicitly making the distinction any earlier than Holmes v. Hurst, 174 U.S. 82, 19 S.Ct. 606, 43 L.Ed. 904 (1899), in which the Court observed that the Copyright Act protects "that arrangement of words which the author has selected to express his ideas." Id. at 86, 19 S.Ct. 606.187
 One non-literary case in which the Supreme Court referred to the idea/expression distinction was Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217-18, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954), which is described below in footnote 80.188
 In cases dealing with toys or products that have both functional and design aspects, courts sometimes use "idea" to refer to a gimmick embodied in the product. See, e.g., Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217-18, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954) (court, after introducing idea/expression dichotomy, stated that plaintiffs, who had copyrights in statuettes of human figures used as table lamps, "may not exclude others from using statuettes of human figures in table lamps; they may only prevent use of copies of their statuettes as such or as incorporated in some other article."); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir.1971) (bejeweled gold pin in the shape of a bee was an unprotected "idea"); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Honora Jewelry Co., 509 F.2d 64, 65-66 (2d Cir.1974) (same for turtle pins); Great Importations, Inc. v. Caffco Int'l, Inc., No. 95 Civ. 0514, 1997 WL 414111, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 24, 1997) (M.J.) ("To the degree the similarities between the two sculptures herein are simply because they are both three-piece sets of candleholders in the shape of the letters J, O and Y with baby angels and holly, those similarities are non-copyrightable ideas....").189
This case does not concern any kind of gimmick, and the Court ventures no opinion about the applicability of the idea/expression dichotomy to any product that embodies a gimmick, including toys or other objects that combine function and design.190
 See Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930, 931 (2d Cir.1914); Kaplan v. Stock Market Photo Agency, Inc., 133 F.Supp.2d 317, 323 (S.D.N.Y.2001); Andersson v. Sony Corp. of Am., No. 96 Civ. 7975(RO), 1997 WL 226310, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 2, 1997); Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 382 (S.D.N.Y.1987); Pagano v. Chas. Beseler Co., 234 F. 963, 964 (S.D.N.Y.1916).191
 The terminology can be still more confused. Consider this sentence, in a section of an opinion analyzing what was original, and hence protectible, in a photograph created by a freelancer in accordance with instructions from a defendant: "[D]efendants conclude that Fournier cannot assert copyright protection, to the extent that he does, over the expression of businessmen in traditional dress on their way to work, an idea which originated with McCann in any event." Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 295 (S.D.N.Y.2002) (emphases added).192
 274 F.2d at 489.193
 Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody, supra, at 697.194
 720 F.2d 231 (2d Cir.1983).195
In that case, which considered the question whether the protagonist of the television series The Greatest American Hero infringed the copyright in the Superman character, Judge Newman observed that a tension between two different propositions dealing with the significance of differences between an allegedly infringing work and a copyrighted work "perhaps results from [those propositions'] formulation in the context of literary works and their subsequent application to graphic and three-dimensional works." Id. at 241.196
 Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody, supra, at 698.197
 Franklin Mint Corp. v. Nat'l Wildlife Art Exchange, Inc., 575 F.2d 62, 65 (3d Cir.1978); accord Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 383 (S.D.N.Y.1987).198
 960 F.2d at 308 (first emphasis added).199
 Def. Br. 6. See supra.200
 See SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 314 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("defendants' instructions were so general as to fall within the realm of unprotectible ideas. Thus, they cannot substantiate a work-for-hire authorship defense." (emphasis added)); Andersson v. Sony Corp., No. 96 Civ. 7975(RO), 1997 WL 226310, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 2, 1997) ("What these two photos may arguably share, the idea of a woman in futuristic garb becoming fascinated with an object held in her hand, is simply not protectible." (emphasis added)); Gentieu v. Tony Stone Images/Chicago, Inc., 255 F.Supp.2d 838, 849 (N.D.Ill.2003) ("Gentieu cannot claim a copyright in the idea of photographing naked or diapered babies or in any elements of expression that are intrinsic to that unprotected idea. Clearly the `poses' at issue in Gentieu's images capture the natural movements and facial expressions of infants.... Such poses are implicit in the very idea of a baby photograph and are not proper material for protection under Gentieu's copyrights." (emphases added)).201
It is interesting to note that United Kingdom law faces a similar terminological problem and that the solution of Laddie and supporting authorities is to conclude that the generality of an "idea" is what determines its protectability:202
"Confusion is caused in the law of copyright because of the use of the catchphrase `There is no copyright in ideas but only in the form of their expression'. Unless one understands what this means its utility is non-existent, or it is positively misleading. An artistic work of the imagination presupposes two kinds of ingredients: the conception of one or more ideas, and artistic dexterity and skill in their representation in the chosen medium. It is not the law that copyright protects the second kind of ingredient only. If that were so a debased copy which failed to capture the artist's dexterity and skill would not infringe, which plainly is not the case. Unless an artist is content merely to represent a pre-existent object (eg a building) or scene, it is part of his task as artist to exercise his imagination and in so doing he may create a pattern of ideas for incorporation in his finished work. This idea-pattern may be as much part of his work, and deserving of copyright protection, as the brushstrokes, pencil-lines, etc. The true proposition is that there is no copyright in a general idea, but that an original combination of ideas may [be protected]." 1 LADDIE § 4.43, at 212 (footnote omitted).
 133 F.Supp.2d at 323 (emphases added).204
 Yurman Design, Inc. v. PAJ, Inc., 262 F.3d 101, 111 (2d Cir.2001) (quoting Hamil America, Inc. v. GFI, 193 F.3d 92, 100 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir.1960)) (internal quotation marks omitted)); accord Boisson v. Banian, Ltd., 273 F.3d 262, 272 (2d Cir.2001) (quoting Folio Impressions, Inc. v. Byer California, 937 F.2d 759, 765 (2d Cir.1991)).205
 Hamil America, Inc., 193 F.3d at 101; accord Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1002 (2d Cir.1995); Folio Impressions, 937 F.2d at 765-66; see also Boisson, 273 F.3d at 272.206
 Boisson, 273 F.3d at 272 (citing Knitwaves, 71 F.3d at 1003); accord Hamil America, 193 F.3d at 101.207
 338 F.3d 127 (2d Cir.2003).208
 See 237 F.Supp.2d 376, 386-88 (S.D.N.Y.2002).209
 338 F.3d at 130 (emphasis in original).210
 Id. at 134-35 (emphasis in original).211
 Id. at 132-33 (quoting Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir.1936)) (internal quotation marks omitted).212
 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][a], at 13-63.213
 657 F.Supp. 380, 384 (S.D.N.Y.1987).
Infopaq International A/S
Danske Dagblades Forening
(Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Højesteret)
(Copyright – Information society – Directive 2001/29/EC – Articles 2 and 5 – Literary and artistic works – Concept of ‘reproduction’ – Reproduction ‘in part’ – Reproduction of short extracts of literary works – Newspaper articles – Temporary and transient reproductions – Technological process consisting in scanning of articles followed by conversion into text file, electronic processing of the reproduction, storage of part of that reproduction and printing out)
Summary of the Judgment
1. Approximation of laws – Copyright and related rights – Directive 2001/29 – Harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society – Right of reproduction – Reproduction in part – Concept
(European Parliament and Council Directive 2001/29, Art. 2(a))
2. Approximation of laws – Copyright and related rights – Directive 2001/29 – Harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society – Right of reproduction – Exceptions and limitations – Conditions – Transient nature of the act of reproduction
(European Parliament and Council Directive 2001/29, Art. 5(1))
1. An act occurring during a data capture process, which consists of storing an extract of a protected work comprising 11 words and printing out that extract, is such as to come within the concept of reproduction in part within the meaning of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, if the elements thus reproduced are the expression of the intellectual creation of their author; it is for the national court to make this determination.
Copyright within the meaning of Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29 is liable to apply only in relation to a subject-matter which is original in the sense that it is its author’s own intellectual creation. As regards the parts of a work, they are protected by copyright since, as such, they share the originality of the whole work. The various parts of a work thus enjoy protection under that provision, provided that they contain elements which are the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the work. Given the requirement of a broad interpretation of the scope of the protection conferred by Article 2 of that directive, the possibility may not be ruled out that certain isolated sentences, or even certain parts of sentences in the text in question, may be suitable for conveying to the reader the originality of a publication such as a newspaper article, by communicating to that reader an element which is, in itself, the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of that article. Such sentences or parts of sentences are, therefore, liable to come within the scope of the protection provided for in Article 2(a) of that directive.
(see paras 37-39, 47-48, 51, operative part 1)
2. The act of printing out an extract of 11 words, during a data capture process consisting in scanning of newspaper articles followed by conversion into text file, electronic processing of the reproduction, storage of part of that reproduction and printing out, does not fulfil the condition of being transient in nature as required by Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society and, therefore, that process cannot be carried out without the consent of the relevant rightholders.
An act can be held to be ‘transient’ within the meaning of the second condition laid down in that provision only if its duration is limited to what is necessary for the proper completion of the technological process in question, it being understood that that process must be automated so that it deletes that act automatically, without human intervention, once its function of enabling the completion of such a process has come to an end. However, by the last act of reproduction in the data capture process, a reproduction is made outside the sphere of computer technology by printing out files containing the extracts of 11 words and thus reproduces those extracts on a paper medium. Once the reproduction has been affixed onto such a medium, it disappears only when the paper itself is destroyed. Moreover, since the data capture process is apparently not likely itself to destroy that medium, the deletion of that reproduction is entirely dependent on the will of the user of that process. It is not at all certain that he will want to dispose of the reproduction, which means that there is a risk that the reproduction will remain in existence for a longer period, according to the user’s needs. In those circumstances, the last act in the data capture process, during which the extracts of 11 words are printed out, is not a transient act within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29.
(see paras 64, 67-70, 74, operative part 2)
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Fourth Chamber)
16 July 2009 (*)
(Copyright – Information society – Directive 2001/29/EC – Articles 2 and 5 – Literary and artistic works – Concept of ‘reproduction’ – Reproduction ‘in part’ – Reproduction of short extracts of literary works – Newspaper articles – Temporary and transient reproductions – Technological process consisting in scanning of articles followed by conversion into text file, electronic processing of the reproduction, storage of part of that reproduction and printing out)
In Case C‑5/08,
REFERENCE for a preliminary ruling under Article 234 EC from the Højesteret (Denmark), made by decision of 21 December 2007, received at the Court on 4 January 2008, in the proceedings
Infopaq International A/S
Danske Dagblades Forening,
THE COURT (Fourth Chamber),
composed of K. Lenaerts, President of the Chamber, T. von Danwitz, R. Silva de Lapuerta, G. Arestis and J. Malenovský (Rapporteur), Judges,
Advocate General: V. Trstenjak,
Registrar: C. Strömholm, Administrator,
having regard to the written procedure and further to the hearing on 20 November 2008,
after considering the observations submitted on behalf of:
– Infopaq International A/S, by A. Jensen, advokat,
– Danske Dagblades Forening, by M. Dahl Pedersen, advokat,
– the Austrian Government, by E. Riedl, acting as Agent,
– the Commission of the European Communities, by H. Krämer and H. Støvlbæk, acting as Agents,
after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 12 February 2009,
gives the following
1 This reference for a preliminary ruling concerns, first, the interpretation of Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (OJ 2001 L 167, p. 10) and, secondly, the conditions for exemption of temporary acts of reproduction within the meaning of Article 5 of that directive.
2 The reference was made in the context of proceedings between Infopaq International A/S (‘Infopaq’) and Danske Dagblades Forening (‘DDF’) concerning the dismissal of its application for a declaration that it was not required to obtain the consent of the rightholders for acts of reproduction of newspaper articles using an automated process consisting in the scanning and then conversion into digital files followed by electronic processing of that file.
3 Under Article 9(1) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (‘the TRIPs Agreement’), as set out in Annex 1C to the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation, which was approved by Council Decision 94/800/EC of 22 December 1994 concerning the conclusion on behalf of the European Community, as regards matters within its competence, of the agreements reached in the Uruguay Round multilateral negotiations (1986-1994) (OJ 1994 L 336, p. 1):
‘Members shall comply with Articles 1 through 21 of the Berne Convention (1971) and the Appendix thereto. …’
‘(1) The expression “literary and artistic works” shall include every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression, such as books, pamphlets and other writings; …
(5) Collections of literary or artistic works such as encyclopaedias and anthologies which, by reason of the selection and arrangement of their contents, constitute intellectual creations shall be protected as such, without prejudice to the copyright in each of the works forming part of such collections.
(8) The protection of this Convention shall not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information.’
5 Under Article 9(1) of the Berne Convention, authors of literary and artistic works protected by that convention are to have the exclusive right of authorising the reproduction of those works, in any manner or form.
‘1. In accordance with the provisions of this Directive, Member States shall protect computer programs, by copyright, as literary works within the meaning of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. …
3. A computer program shall be protected if it is original in the sense that it is the author’s own intellectual creation. No other criteria shall be applied to determine its eligibility for protection.’
‘In accordance with this Directive, databases which, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author’s own intellectual creation shall be protected as such by copyright. No other criteria shall be applied to determine their eligibility for that protection.’
‘(4) A harmonised legal framework on copyright and related rights, through increased legal certainty and while providing for a high level of protection of intellectual property, will foster substantial investment in creativity and innovation, including network infrastructure ...
(6) Without harmonisation at Community level, legislative activities at national level which have already been initiated in a number of Member States in order to respond to the technological challenges might result in significant differences in protection and thereby in restrictions on the free movement of services and products incorporating, or based on, intellectual property, leading to a refragmentation of the internal market and legislative inconsistency. The impact of such legislative differences and uncertainties will become more significant with the further development of the information society, which has already greatly increased transborder exploitation of intellectual property. This development will and should further increase. Significant legal differences and uncertainties in protection may hinder economies of scale for new products and services containing copyright and related rights.
(9) Any harmonisation of copyright and related rights must take as a basis a high level of protection, since such rights are crucial to intellectual creation. …
(10) If authors or performers are to continue their creative and artistic work, they have to receive an appropriate reward for the use of their work …
(11) A rigorous, effective system for the protection of copyright and related rights is one of the main ways of ensuring that European cultural creativity and production receive the necessary resources and of safeguarding the independence and dignity of artistic creators and performers.
(20) This Directive is based on principles and rules already laid down in the Directives currently in force in this area, in particular Directives [91/250] … and [96/9], and it develops those principles and rules and places them in the context of the information society. The provisions of this Directive should be without prejudice to the provisions of those Directives, unless otherwise provided in this Directive.
(21) This Directive should define the scope of the acts covered by the reproduction right with regard to the different beneficiaries. This should be done in conformity with the acquis communautaire. A broad definition of these acts is needed to ensure legal certainty within the internal market.
(22) The objective of proper support for the dissemination of culture must not be achieved by sacrificing strict protection of rights or by tolerating illegal forms of distribution of counterfeited or pirated works.
(31) A fair balance of rights and interests between the different categories of rightholders, as well as between the different categories of rightholders and users of protected subject-matter must be safeguarded. …
(33) The exclusive right of reproduction should be subject to an exception to allow certain acts of temporary reproduction, which are transient or incidental reproductions, forming an integral and essential part of a technological process and carried out for the sole purpose of enabling either efficient transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary, or a lawful use of a work or other subject-matter to be made. The acts of reproduction concerned should have no separate economic value on their own. To the extent that they meet these conditions, this exception should include acts which enable browsing as well as acts of caching to take place, including those which enable transmission systems to function efficiently, provided that the intermediary does not modify the information and does not interfere with the lawful use of technology, widely recognised and used by industry, to obtain data on the use of the information. A use should be considered lawful where it is authorised by the rightholder or not restricted by law.’
‘Member States shall provide for the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit direct or indirect, temporary or permanent reproduction by any means and in any form, in whole or in part:
(a) for authors, of their works.’
‘(1) Temporary acts of reproduction referred to in Article 2, which are transient or incidental [and] an integral and essential part of a technological process and whose sole purpose is to enable:
(a) a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary, or
(b) a lawful use
of a work or other subject-matter to be made, and which have no independent economic significance, shall be exempted from the reproduction right provided for in Article 2.
5. The exceptions and limitations provided for in paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 4 shall only be applied in certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or other subject-matter and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.’
11 According to Article 6 of Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights (OJ 2006 L 372, p. 12):
‘Photographs which are original in the sense that they are the author’s own intellectual creation shall be protected in accordance with Article 1 [which specifies the duration of the rights of an author of a literary or artistic work within the meaning of Article 2 of the Berne Convention]. No other criteria shall be applied to determine their eligibility for protection. Member States may provide for the protection of other photographs.’
12 Articles 2 and 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 were transposed into Danish law by paragraphs 2 and 11a(1) of Law No 395 on copyright (lov n°395 om ophavsret) of 14 June 1995 (Lovtidende 1995 A, p. 1796), as amended and consolidated by, inter alia, Law No 1051 (lov n°1051 om ændring af ophavsretsloven) of 17 December 2002 (Lovtidende 2002 A, p. 7881).
The dispute in the main proceedings and the questions referred for a preliminary ruling
13 Infopaq operates a media monitoring and analysis business which consists primarily in drawing up summaries of selected articles from Danish daily newspapers and other periodicals. The articles are selected on the basis of certain subject criteria agreed with customers and the selection is made by means of a ‘data capture process’. The summaries are sent to customers by email.
15 In 2005 DDF became aware that Infopaq was scanning newspaper articles for commercial purposes without authorisation from the relevant rightholders. Taking the view that such consent was necessary for processing articles using the process in question, DDF complained to Infopaq about this procedure.
18 Secondly, once the spines are cut off the publications so that all the pages consist of loose sheets, the publications are scanned. The section to be scanned is selected from the registration database before the publication is put into the scanner. Scanning allows a TIFF (‘Tagged Image File Format’) file to be created for each page of the publication. When scanning is completed, the TIFF file is transferred to an OCR (‘Optical Character Recognition’) server.
19 Thirdly, the OCR server translates the TIFF file into data that can be processed digitally. During that process, the image of each letter is translated into a character code which tells the computer what type of letter it is. For instance, the image of the letters ‘TDC’ is translated into something the computer can treat as the letters ‘TDC’ and put in a text format which can be recognised by the computer’s system. These data are saved as a text file which can be understood by any text processing program. The OCR process is completed by deleting the TIFF file.
20 Fourthly, the text file is processed to find a search word defined beforehand. Each time a match for a search word is found, data is generated giving the publication, section and page number on which the match was found, together with a value expressed as a percentage between 0 and 100 indicating how far into the text it is to be found, in order to make it easier to read the article. Also in order to make it easier to find the search word when reading the article, the five words which come before and after the search word are captured (‘extract of 11 words’). At the end of the process the text file is deleted.
21 Fifthly, at the end of the data capture process a cover sheet is printed out in respect of all the pages where the relevant search word was found. The following is an example of the text of a cover sheet:
‘4 November 2005 – Dagbladet Arbejderen, page 3:
TDC: 73% “a forthcoming sale of the telecommunications group TDC which is expected to be bought”’.
22 Infopaq disputed the claim that the procedure required consent from the rightholders and brought an action against DDF before the Østre Landsret (Eastern Regional Court), claiming that DDF should be ordered to acknowledge that Infopaq is entitled in Denmark to apply the abovementioned procedure without the consent of DDF or of its members. After the Østre Landsret dismissed that action, Infopaq brought an appeal before the referring court.
23 According to the Højesteret, it is not disputed in this case that consent from the rightholders is not required to engage in press monitoring activity and the writing of summaries consisting in manual reading of each publication, selection of the relevant articles on the basis of predetermined search words, and production of a manually prepared cover sheet for the summary writers, giving an identified search word in an article and its position in the newspaper. Similarly, the parties in the main proceedings do not dispute that genuinely independent summary writing per se is lawful and does not require consent from the rightholders.
24 Nor is it disputed in this case that the data capture process described above involves two acts of reproduction: the creation of a TIFF file when the printed articles are scanned and the conversion of the TIFF file into a text file. In addition, it is common ground that this procedure entails the reproduction of parts of the scanned printed articles since the extract of 11 words is stored and those 11 words are printed out on paper.
25 There is, however, disagreement between the parties as to whether there is reproduction as contemplated by Article 2 of Directive 2001/29. Likewise, they disagree as to whether, if there is reproduction, the acts in question, taken as a whole, are covered by the exemption from the right of reproduction provided for in Article 5(1) of that directive.
‘(1) Can the storing and subsequent printing out of a text extract from an article in a daily newspaper, consisting of a search word and the five preceding and five subsequent words, be regarded as acts of reproduction which are protected (see Article 2 of [Directive 2001/29]?
(2) Is the context in which temporary acts of reproduction take place relevant to whether they can be regarded as “transient” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29)?
(3) Can a temporary act of reproduction be regarded as “transient” where the reproduction is processed, for example, by the creation of a text file on the basis of an image file or by a search for text strings on the basis of a text file?
(4) Can a temporary act of reproduction be regarded as “transient” where part of the reproduction, consisting of one or more text extracts of 11 words, is stored?
(5) Can a temporary act of reproduction be regarded as “transient” where part of the reproduction, consisting of one or more text extracts of 11 words, is printed out?
(6) Is the stage of the technological process at which temporary acts of reproduction take place relevant to whether they constitute “an integral and essential part of a technological process” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29)?
(7) Can temporary acts of reproduction be an “integral and essential part of a technological process” if they consist of manual scanning of entire newspaper articles whereby the latter are transformed from a printed medium into a digital medium?
(8) Can temporary acts of reproduction constitute an “integral and essential part of a technological process” where they consist of printing out part of the reproduction, comprising one or more text extracts of 11 words?
(9) Does “lawful use” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29) include any form of use which does not require the rightholder’s consent?
(10) Does “lawful use” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29) include the scanning by a commercial business of entire newspaper articles, subsequent processing of the reproduction, and the storing and possible printing out of part of the reproduction, consisting of one or more text extracts of 11 words, for use in the business’s summary writing, even where the rightholder has not given consent to those acts?
(11) What criteria should be used to assess whether temporary acts of reproduction have “independent economic significance” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29) if the other conditions laid down in the provision are satisfied?
(12) Can the user’s efficiency gains from temporary acts of reproduction be taken into account in assessing whether the acts have “independent economic significance” (see Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29)?
(13) Can the scanning by a commercial business of entire newspaper articles, subsequent processing of the reproduction, and the storing and possible printing out of part of the reproduction, consisting of one or more text extracts of 11 words, without the rightholder’s consent be regarded as constituting “certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation” of the newspaper articles and “not unreasonably [prejudicing] the legitimate interests of the rightholder” (see Article 5(5) of Directive 2001/29)?’
The questions referred for a preliminary ruling
27 It should be noted as a preliminary point that the need for uniform application of Community law and the principle of equality require that where provisions of Community law make no express reference to the law of the Member States for the purpose of determining their meaning and scope, as is the case with Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, they must normally be given an autonomous and uniform interpretation throughout the Community (see, in particular, Case C‑245/00 SENA  ECR I‑1251, paragraph 23, and Case C-306/05 SGAE  ECR I‑11519, paragraph 31).
29 Consequently, the Austrian Government cannot successfully contend that it is for the Member States to provide the definition of the concept of ‘reproduction in part’ in Article 2 of Directive 2001/29 (see, to that effect, with respect to the concept of ‘public’ as referred to in Article 3 of the same directive, SGAE, paragraph 31).
The first question
30 By its first question, the national court asks, essentially, whether the concept of ‘reproduction in part’ within the meaning of Directive 2001/29 is to be interpreted as meaning that it encompasses the storing and subsequent printing out on paper of a text extract consisting of 11 words.
32 In those circumstances, those concepts must be defined having regard to the wording and context of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, where the reference to them is to be found and in the light of both the overall objectives of that directive and international law (see, to that effect, SGAE, paragraphs 34 and 35 and case-law cited).
33 Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29 provides that authors have the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit reproduction, in whole or in part, of their works. It follows that protection of the author’s right to authorise or prohibit reproduction is intended to cover ‘work’.
34 It is, moreover, apparent from the general scheme of the Berne Convention, in particular Article 2(5) and (8), that the protection of certain subject-matters as artistic or literary works presupposes that they are intellectual creations.
35 Similarly, under Articles 1(3) of Directive 91/250, 3(1) of Directive 96/9 and 6 of Directive 2006/116, works such as computer programs, databases or photographs are protected by copyright only if they are original in the sense that they are their author’s own intellectual creation.
37 In those circumstances, copyright within the meaning of Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29 is liable to apply only in relation to a subject-matter which is original in the sense that it is its author’s own intellectual creation.
38 As regards the parts of a work, it should be borne in mind that there is nothing in Directive 2001/29 or any other relevant directive indicating that those parts are to be treated any differently from the work as a whole. It follows that they are protected by copyright since, as such, they share the originality of the whole work.
39 In the light of the considerations referred to in paragraph 37 of this judgment, the various parts of a work thus enjoy protection under Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29, provided that they contain elements which are the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the work.
40 With respect to the scope of such protection of a work, it follows from recitals 9 to 11 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29 that its main objective is to introduce a high level of protection, in particular for authors to enable them to receive an appropriate reward for the use of their works, including at the time of reproduction of those works, in order to be able to pursue their creative and artistic work.
42 That requirement of a broad definition of those acts is, moreover, also to be found in the wording of Article 2 of that directive, which uses expressions such as ‘direct or indirect’, ‘temporary or permanent’, ‘by any means’ and ‘in any form’.
44 As regards newspaper articles, their author’s own intellectual creation, referred to in paragraph 37 of this judgment, is evidenced clearly from the form, the manner in which the subject is presented and the linguistic expression. In the main proceedings, moreover, it is common ground that newspaper articles, as such, are literary works covered by Directive 2001/29.
45 Regarding the elements of such works covered by the protection, it should be observed that they consist of words which, considered in isolation, are not as such an intellectual creation of the author who employs them. It is only through the choice, sequence and combination of those words that the author may express his creativity in an original manner and achieve a result which is an intellectual creation.
47 That being so, given the requirement of a broad interpretation of the scope of the protection conferred by Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, the possibility may not be ruled out that certain isolated sentences, or even certain parts of sentences in the text in question, may be suitable for conveying to the reader the originality of a publication such as a newspaper article, by communicating to that reader an element which is, in itself, the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of that article. Such sentences or parts of sentences are, therefore, liable to come within the scope of the protection provided for in Article 2(a) of that directive.
48 In the light of those considerations, the reproduction of an extract of a protected work which, like those at issue in the main proceedings, comprises 11 consecutive words thereof, is such as to constitute reproduction in part within the meaning of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, if that extract contains an element of the work which, as such, expresses the author’s own intellectual creation; it is for the national court to make this determination.
49 It must be remembered also that the data capture process used by Infopaq allows for the reproduction of multiple extracts of protected works. That process reproduces an extract of 11 words each time a search word appears in the relevant work and, moreover, often operates using a number of search words because some clients ask Infopaq to draw up summaries based on a number of criteria.
50 In so doing, that process increases the likelihood that Infopaq will make reproductions in part within the meaning of Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29 because the cumulative effect of those extracts may lead to the reconstitution of lengthy fragments which are liable to reflect the originality of the work in question, with the result that they contain a number of elements which are such as to express the intellectual creation of the author of that work.
51 In the light of the foregoing, the answer to the first question is that an act occurring during a data capture process, which consists of storing an extract of a protected work comprising 11 words and printing out that extract, is such as to come within the concept of reproduction in part within the meaning of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, if the elements thus reproduced are the expression of the intellectual creation of their author; it is for the national court to make this determination.
Questions 2 to 12
52 If the acts at issue in the main proceedings do come within the concept of reproduction in part of a protected work within the meaning of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, Articles 2 and 5 of that directive make it clear that such reproduction may not be made without the consent of the relevant author, unless that reproduction satisfies the conditions laid down in Article 5 of that directive.
53 In that context, by questions 2 to 12, the referring court asks, essentially, whether acts of reproduction occurring during a data capture process, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, satisfy the conditions laid down in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 and, therefore, whether that process may be carried out without the consent of the relevant rightholders, since it is used to draw up summaries of newspaper articles and consists of scanning those articles in their entirety to produce a digital file, storing an extract of 11 words and then printing out that extract.
– the act is temporary;
– it is transient or incidental;
– it is an integral and essential part of a technological process;
– the sole purpose of that process is to enable a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary of a lawful use of a work or protected subject-matter; and
– the act has no independent economic significance.
55 It must be borne in mind that those conditions are cumulative in the sense that non-compliance with any one of them will lead to the act of reproduction not being exempted pursuant to Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 from the reproduction right provided for in Article 2 of that directive.
56 For the interpretation of each of those conditions in turn, it should be borne in mind that, according to settled case-law, the provisions of a directive which derogate from a general principle established by that directive must be interpreted strictly (Case C-476/01 Kapper  ECR I-5205, paragraph 72, and Case C‑36/05 Commission v Spain  ECR I‑10313, paragraph 31).
57 This holds true for the exemption provided for in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29, which is a derogation from the general principle established by that directive, namely the requirement of authorisation from the rightholder for any reproduction of a protected work.
58 This is all the more so given that the exemption must be interpreted in the light of Article 5(5) of Directive 2001/29, under which that exemption is to be applied only in certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or other subject-matter and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.
59 In accordance with recitals 4, 6 and 21 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29, the conditions laid down in Article 5(1) thereof must also be interpreted in the light of the need for legal certainty for authors with regard to the protection of their works.
60 In the present case, Infopaq claims, first, that the acts of reproduction at issue in the main proceedings fulfil the condition relating to transient nature, since they are deleted at the end of the electronic search process.
61 The Court finds, in the light of the third condition referred to in paragraph 54 of this judgment, that a temporary and transient act of reproduction is intended to enable the completion of a technological process of which it forms an integral and essential part. In those circumstances, given the principles set out in paragraphs 57 and 58 of this judgment, those acts of reproduction must not exceed what is necessary for the proper completion of that technological process.
62 Legal certainty for rightholders further requires that the storage and deletion of the reproduction not be dependent on discretionary human intervention, particularly by the user of protected works. There is no guarantee that in such cases the person concerned will actually delete the reproduction created or, in any event, that he will delete it once its existence is no longer justified by its function of enabling the completion of a technological process.
63 This finding is supported by recital 33 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29 which lists, as examples of the characteristics of the acts referred to in Article 5(1) thereof, acts which enable browsing as well as acts of caching to take place, including those which enable transmission systems to function efficiently. Such acts are, by definition, created and deleted automatically and without human intervention.
64 In the light of the foregoing, the Court finds that an act can be held to be ‘transient’ within the meaning of the second condition laid down in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 only if its duration is limited to what is necessary for the proper completion of the technological process in question, it being understood that that process must be automated so that it deletes that act automatically, without human intervention, once its function of enabling the completion of such a process has come to an end.
65 In the main proceedings, the possibility cannot be ruled out at the outset that in the first two acts of reproduction at issue in those proceedings, namely the creation of TIFF files and text files resulting from the conversion of TIFF files, may be held to be transient as long as they are deleted automatically from the computer memory.
66 Regarding the third act of reproduction, namely the storing of a text extract of 11 words, the evidence submitted to the Court does not permit an assessment of whether the technological process is automated with the result that that file is deleted promptly and without human intervention from the computer memory. It is for the national court to ascertain whether the deletion of that file is dependent on the will of the user of the reproduction and whether there is a risk that the file might remain stored once the function of enabling completion of the technological process has come to an end.
67 It is common ground, however, that, by the last act of reproduction in the data capture process, Infopaq is making a reproduction outside the sphere of computer technology. It is printing out files containing the extracts of 11 words and thus reproduces those extracts on a paper medium.
69 Moreover, since the data capture process is apparently not likely itself to destroy that medium, the deletion of that reproduction is entirely dependent on the will of the user of that process. It is not at all certain that he will want to dispose of the reproduction, which means that there is a risk that the reproduction will remain in existence for a longer period, according to the user’s needs.
70 In those circumstances, the Court finds that the last act in the data capture process at issue in the main proceedings, during which Infopaq prints out the extracts of 11 words, is not a transient act within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29.
72 It follows from the foregoing that that act does not fulfil the second condition laid down in Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29; accordingly, such an act cannot be exempted from the reproduction right provided for in Article 2 thereof.
73 It follows that the data capture process at issue in the main proceedings cannot be carried out without the consent of the rightholders and, consequently, it is not necessary to consider whether the four acts which make up that process fulfil the other conditions laid down in Article 5(1).
74 Consequently, the answer to questions 2 to 12 is that the act of printing out an extract of 11 words, during a data capture process such as that at issue in the main proceedings, does not fulfil the condition of being transient in nature as required by Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 and, therefore, that process cannot be carried out without the consent of the relevant rightholders.
76 Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court. Costs incurred in submitting observations to the Court, other than the costs of those parties, are not recoverable.
On those grounds, the Court (Fourth Chamber) hereby rules:
1. An act occurring during a data capture process, which consists of storing an extract of a protected work comprising 11 words and printing out that extract, is such as to come within the concept of reproduction in part within the meaning of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, if the elements thus reproduced are the expression of the intellectual creation of their author; it is for the national court to make this determination.
2. The act of printing out an extract of 11 words, during a data capture process such as that at issue in the main proceedings, does not fulfil the condition of being transient in nature as required by Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29 and, therefore, that process cannot be carried out without the consent of the relevant rightholders.
Discussion: Justifications for copyright
Part II begins on page 6 of the PDF (pages 296 -314)
from: Stephen Munzer, ed., New Essays in the Legal and Political Theory of Property (Cambridge University Press, 2001), 168-199
The term "intellectual property" refers to a loose cluster of legal doctrines that regulate the uses of different sorts of ideas and insignia. The law of copyright protects various “original forms of expression,” including novels, movies, musical compositions, and computer software programs. Patent law protects inventions and some kinds of discoveries. Trademark law protects words and symbols that identify for consumers the goods and services manufactured or supplied by particular persons or firms. Trade-secret law protects commercially valuable information (soft-drink formulas, confidential marketing strategies, etc.) that companies attempt to conceal from their competitors. The “right of publicity” protects celebrities’ interests in their images and identities.
The economic and cultural importance of this collection of rules is increasing rapidly. The fortunes of many businesses now depend heavily on intellectual-property rights. A growing percentage of the legal profession specializes in intellectual-property disputes. And lawmakers throughout the world are busily revising their intellectual-property laws.
Partly as a result of these trends, scholarly interest in the field has risen dramatically in recent years. In law reviews and in journals of economics and philosophy, articles deploying "theories" of intellectual property have proliferated. This essay canvasses those theories, evaluates them, and considers the roles they do and ought to play in lawmaking.
Most of the recent theoretical writing consists of struggles among and within four approaches. The first and most popular of the four employs the familiar utilitarian guideline that lawmakers’ beacon when shaping property rights should be the maximization of net social welfare. Pursuit of that end in the context of intellectual property, it is generally thought, requires lawmakers to strike an optimal balance between, on one hand, the power of exclusive rights to stimulate the creation of inventions and works of art and, on the other, the partially offsetting tendency of such rights to curtail widespread public enjoyment of those creations.
A good example of scholarship in this vein is William Landes' and Richard Posner's essay on copyright law. The distinctive characteristics of most intellectual products, Landes and Posner argue, are that they are easily replicated and that enjoyment of them by one person does not prevent enjoyment of them by other persons. Those characteristics in combination create a danger that the creators of such products will be unable to recoup their "costs of expression" (the time and effort devoted to writing or composing and the costs of negotiating with publishers or record companies), because they will be undercut by copyists who bear only the low "costs of production" (the costs of manufacturing and distributing books or CDs) and thus can offer consumers identical products at very low prices. Awareness of that danger will deter creators from making socially valuable intellectual products in the first instance. We can avoid this economically inefficient outcome by allocating to the creators (for limited times) the exclusive right to make copies of their creations. The creators of works that consumers find valuable – i.e., for which there are not, in the opinion of consumers, equally attractive substitutes – will be empowered thereby to charge prices for access to those works substantially greater than they could in a competitive market. All of the various alternative ways in which creators might be empowered to recover their costs, Landes and Posner contend, are, for one reason or another, more wasteful of social resources. This utilitarian rationale, they argue, should be—and, for the most part, has been—used to shape specific doctrines within the field.
A related argument dominates the same authors' study of trademark law. The primary economic benefits of trademarks, they contend, are (1) the reduction of consumers' "search costs" (because it's easier to pick a box of "Cheerios" off the grocery shelf than to read the list of ingredients on each container, and because consumers can rely upon their prior experiences with various brands of cereal when deciding which box to buy in the future) and (2) the creation of an incentive for businesses to produce consistently high-quality goods and services (because they know that their competitors cannot, by imitating their distinctive marks, take a free ride on the consumer good will that results from consistent quality). Trademarks, Landes and Posner claim, also have an unusual ancillary social benefit: they improve the quality of our language. By increasing our stock of nouns and by “creating words or phrases that people value for their intrinsic pleasingness as well as their information value,” they simultaneously economize on communication costs and make conversation more pleasurable. To be sure, trademarks can sometimes be socially harmful—for example by enabling the first entrant into a market to discourage competition by appropriating for itself an especially attractive or informative brand name. Awareness of these benefits and harms should (and usually does), Landes and Posner claim, guide legislators and judges when tuning trademark law; marks should be (and usually are) protected when they are socially beneficial and not when they are, on balance, deleterious.
The second of the four approaches that currently dominate the theoretical literature springs from the propositions that a person who labors upon resources that are either unowned or “held in common” has a natural property right to the fruits of his or her efforts – and that the state has a duty to respect and enforce that natural right. These ideas, originating in the writings of John Locke, are widely thought to be especially applicable to the field of intellectual property, where the pertinent raw materials (facts and concepts) do seem in some sense to be “held in common” and where labor seems to contribute so importantly to the value of finished products.
A good illustration of this perspective is Robert Nozick's brief but influential discussion of patent law in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. After associating himself with Locke's argument, Nozick turns his attention to Locke's famously ambiguous "proviso" –the proposition that a person may legitimately acquire property rights by mixing his labor with resources held "in common" only if, after the acquisition, "there is enough and as good left in common for others." Nozick contends that the correct interpretation of this limitation ("correct" in the senses (a) that it probably corresponds to Locke's original intent and (b) that, in any event, it is entailed by "an adequate theory of justice") is that the acquisition of property through labor is legitimate if and only if other persons do not suffer thereby any net harm. "Net harm" for these purposes includes such injuries as being left poorer than they would have been under a regime that did not permit the acquisition of property through labor or a constriction of the set of resources available for their use —but does not include a diminution in their opportunities to acquire property rights in unowned resources by being the first to labor upon them. Construed in this fashion, the Lockean proviso is not violated, Nozick argues, by the assignment of a patent right to an inventor because, although other persons' access to the invention is undoubtedly limited by the issuance of the patent, the invention would not have existed at all without the efforts of the inventor. In other words, consumers are helped, not hurt, by the grant of the patent. Nozick contends, however, that fidelity to Locke's theory would mandate two limitations on the inventor's entitlements. First, persons who subsequently invented the same device independently must be permitted to make and sell it. Otherwise the assignment of the patent to the first inventor would leave them worse off. Second, for the same reason, patents should not last longer than, on average, it would have taken someone else to invent the same device had knowledge of the invention not disabled them from inventing it independently. Although Nozick may not have been aware of it, implementation of the first of these limitations would require a substantial reform of current patent law—which, unlike copyright law, does not contain a safe harbor for persons who dream up the same idea on their own.
The premise of the third approach —derived loosely from the writings of Kant and Hegel—his that private property rights are crucial to the satisfaction of some fundamental human needs; policymakers should thus strive to create and allocate entitlements to resources in the fashion that best enables people to fulfill those needs. From this standpoint, intellectual property rights may be justified either on the ground that they shield from appropriation or modification artifacts through which authors and artists have expressed their "wills" (an activity thought central to “personhood”) or on the ground that they create social and economic conditions conducive to creative intellectual activity, which in turn is important to human flourishing.
In perhaps the most fully developed argument of this sort, Justin Hughes derives from Hegel's Philosophy of Right the following guidelines concerning the proper shape of an intellectual-property system. (a) We should be more willing to accord legal protection to the fruits of highly expressive intellectual activities, such as the writing of novels, than to the fruits of less expressive activities, such as genetic research. (b) Because a person's "persona"—his "public image, including his physical features, mannerisms, and history"—is an important "receptacle for personality," it deserves generous legal protection, despite the fact that ordinarily it does not result from labor. (c) Authors and inventors should be permitted to earn respect, honor, admiration, and money from the public by selling or giving away copies of their works, but should not be permitted to surrender their right to prevent others from mutilating or misattributing their works.
The last of the four approaches is rooted in the proposition that property rights in general—and intellectual-property rights in particular—can and should be shaped so as to help foster the achievement of a just and attractive culture. Theorists who work this vein typically draw inspiration from an eclectic cluster of political and legal theorists, including Jefferson, the early Marx, the Legal Realists, and the various proponents (ancient and modern) of classical republicanism. This approach is similar to utilitarianism in its teleological orientation, but dissimilar in its willingness to deploy visions of a desirable society richer than the conceptions of “social welfare” deployed by utilitarians.
A provocative example may be found in Neil Netanel's recent essay, "Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society." Netanel begins by sketching a picture of "a robust, participatory, and pluralist civil society," teeming with "unions, churches, political and social movements, civic and neighborhood associations, schools of thought, and educational institutions." In this world, all persons would enjoy both some degree of financial independence and considerable responsibility in shaping their local social and economic environments. A civil society of this sort is vital, Netanel claims, to the perpetuation of democratic political institutions. It will not, however, emerge spontaneously; it must be nourished by government. In two ways, copyright law can help foster it.
The first is a production function. Copyright provides an incentive for creative expression on a wide array of political, social, and aesthetic issues, thus bolstering the discursive foundations for democratic culture and civic association. The second function is structural. Copyright supports a sector of creative and communicative activity that is relatively free from reliance on state subsidy, elite patronage, and cultural hierarchy.
Promotion of these two objectives does not require that we retain all aspects of the current copyright system. On the contrary, Netanel suggests, they would be advanced more effectively by a copyright regime trimmed along the following lines: The copyright term should be shortened, thereby increasing the size of the "public domain" available for creative manipulation. Copyright owners' authority to control the preparation of "derivative works" should be reduced for the same reason. Finally, compulsory licensing systems should be employed more frequently to balance the interests of artists and "consumers" of their works.
Other writers who have approached intellectual-property law from similar perspectives include Keith Aoki, Rosemary Coombe, Niva Elkin-Koren, Michael Madow, and myself. As yet, however, this fourth approach is less well established and recognized than the other three. It does not even have a commonly accepted label. To describe a closely analogous perspective developed in the context of land law, Greg Alexander suggests the term "Proprietarian" theory. I find more helpful the phrase, “Social Planning Theory."
Those, then, are (in order of prominence and influence) the four perspectives that currently dominate theoretical writing about intellectual property: Utilitarianism; Labor Theory; Personality Theory; and Social Planning Theory. What accounts for the influence of these particular approaches? In large part, their prominence derives from the fact that they grow out of and draw support from lines of argument that have long figured in the raw materials of intellectual property law—constitutional provisions, case reports, preambles to legislation, and so forth.
The dependence of theorists on ideas formulated and popularized by judges, legislators, and lawyers is especially obvious in the case of utilitarianism. References to the role of intellectual-property rights in stimulating the production of socially valuable works riddle American law. Thus, for example, the constitutional provision upon which the copyright and patent statutes rest indicates that the purpose of those laws is to provide incentives for creative intellectual efforts that will benefit the society at large. The United States Supreme Court, when construing the copyright and patent statutes, has repeatedly insisted that their primary objective is inducing the production and dissemination of works of the intellect. A host of lower courts have agreed.
References to the importance of rewarding authors and inventors for their labor are almost as common. Proponents of legislative extensions of copyright or patent protection routinely make arguments like: "Our American society is founded on the principle that the one who creates something of value is entitled to enjoy the fruits of his labor." The United States Supreme Court often uses a similar vocabulary. For example, Justice Reed ended his opinion in Mazer v. Stein with the solemn statement: "Sacrificial days devoted to . . . creative activities deserve rewards commensurate with the services rendered." Lower court opinions and appellate arguments frequently take the same tack.
Until recently, the personality theory had much less currency in American law. By contrast, it has long figured very prominently in Europe. The French and German copyright regimes, for example, have been strongly shaped by the writings of Kant and Hegel. This influence is especially evident in the generous protection those countries provide for "moral rights"—authors' and artists' rights to control the public disclosure of their works, to withdraw their works from public circulation, to receive appropriate credit for their creations, and above all to protect their works against mutilation or destruction. This cluster of entitlements has traditionally been justified on the ground that a work of art embodies and helps to realize its creator’s personality or will. In the past two decades, "moral-rights" doctrine—and the philosophic perspective on which it rests—have found increasing favor with American lawmakers, as evidenced most clearly by the proliferation of state art-preservation statutes and the recent adoption of the federal Visual Artists Rights Act.
Finally, deliberate efforts to craft or construe rules in order to advance a vision of a just and attractive culture—the orientation that underlies Social Planning Theory—can be found in almost all of the provinces of intellectual property law. Such impulses underlie, for example, both the harsh response of most courts when applying copyright or trademark law to scatological humor and the generally favorable treatment they have accorded criticism, commentary, and education. Social-planning arguments also figure prominently in current debates concerning the appropriate scope of intellectual-property rights on the Internet.
To summarize, one source of the prominence of utilitarian, labor, personality, and social-planning theories in recent theoretical literature is the strength of similar themes in judicial opinions, statutes, and appellate briefs. But two circumstances suggest that such parallelism and resonance cannot fully explain the configuration of contemporary theories. First, there exist in the materials of intellectual-property law several important themes that have not been echoed and amplified by a significant number of theorists. Many American courts, for example, strive when construing copyright or trademark law to reflect and reinforce custom—either customary business practices or customary standards of "good faith" and "fair dealing." That orientation has deep roots both in the common law in general and in the early-twentieth-century writings of the American Legal Realists. Yet few contemporary intellectual-property theorists pay significant attention to custom. Much the same can be said of concern for privacy interests. Long a major concern of legislators and courts, protection of privacy has been given short shrift by contemporary American theorists.
The second circumstance is that, in legislative and judicial materials, arguments of the various sorts we have been considering typically are blended. Here, for example, is the preamble to Connecticut's first copyright statute:
Whereas it is perfectly agreeable to the principles of natural equity and justice, that every author should be secured in receiving the profits that may arise from the sale of his works, and such security may encourage men of learning and genius to publish their writings; which may do honor to their country, and service to mankind . . ..
Two hundred years later, in the Harper & Row case, the Supreme Court took a similar line:
We agree with the Court of Appeals that copyright is intended to increase and not to impede the harvest of knowledge. But we believe the Second Circuit gave insufficient deference to the scheme established by the Copyright Act for fostering the original works that provide the seed and substance of this harvest. The rights conferred by copyright are designed to assure contributors to the store of knowledge a fair return for their labors.
Fairness, incentives, culture-shaping—in these and countless other passages, they swirl together. In contemporary theoretical writing, by contrast, such themes are typically disentangled and juxtaposed.
How can we account for these two respects in which intellectual-property theory deviates from extant legal materials? The answer seems to be that the theorists are seeing the law through glasses supplied by political philosophy. In contemporary philosophic debates, natural law, utilitarianism, and theories of the good are generally seen as incompatible perspectives. It is not surprising that legal theorists, familiar with those debates, should separate ideas about intellectual property into similar piles.
One additional circumstance also likely plays a part: Many contemporary intellectual-property theorists also participate in similar arguments about the appropriate shape of property law in general. In that arena, there is now a well-established canon of rival perspectives, again drawn in large part from Anglo-American political philosophy. Labor theory, utilitarianism, and personality theory are the primary contenders. We should not be surprised to see them replicated in the context of intellectual property.
Lawmakers are confronted these days with many difficult questions involving rights to control information. Should the creators of electronic databases be able to demand compensation from users or copyists? What degree of similarity between two plots or two fictional characters should be necessary to trigger a finding that one infringes the other? Should computer software be governed by copyright law, patent law, or a sui generis legal regime? Should we expand or contract intellectual-property protection for the configurations of consumer products? Should time-sensitive information (e.g., sports scores, news, financial data) gathered by one party be shielded from copying by others? Many other, similar problems demand attention.
The proponents of all four of the leading theories of intellectual property purport to provide lawmakers with answers to questions of these sorts. In other words, they understand their arguments to be, not merely systematic accounts of the impulses that have shaped extant legal doctrines, but guides that legislators and judges can use in modifying or extending those doctrines in response to new technologies and circumstances. Unfortunately, all four theories prove in practice to be less helpful in this regard than their proponents claim. Ambiguities, internal inconsistencies, and the lack of crucial empirical information severely limit their prescriptive power. Subsections III.A. – III.D., below, explore those limitations. Section IV contends that the theories nevertheless have considerable value.
The first task in developing a utilitarian theory of intellectual property is translating the Benthamite ideal of the "greatest good of the greatest number" into a more precise and administrable standard. Most contemporary writers select for this purpose either the "wealth-maximization" criterion, which counsels lawmakers to select the system of rules that maximizes aggregate welfare measured by consumers' ability and willingness to pay for goods, services, and conditions, or the "Kaldor-Hicks" criterion, under which one state of affairs is preferred to a second state of affairs if, by moving from the second to the first, the "gainer" from the move can, by a lump-sum transfer, compensate the "loser" for his loss of utility and still be better off.
This preliminary analytical maneuver is vulnerable to various objections. First, the wealth-maximization and Kaldor-Hicks criteria, though similar, are not identical, and much may turn on the choice between them. Next, skeptics commonly object to both criteria on the grounds that they ignore the incommensurability of utility functions and bias analysis in favor of the desires of the rich, who, on average, value each dollar less than the poor. Finally, some economists and political theorists who draw inspiration from the rich tradition of utilitarianism contend that both criteria (but especially the first) define social welfare too narrowly and would prefer a more encompassing analytical net. But because these objections are by no means limited to the field of intellectual property and because they have been well aired elsewhere, I will not pause to explore them here.
Assume that we are comfortable with at least one of these criteria as our beacon. How might it be applied to intellectual-property law? What system of rules, in other words, will most improve social welfare? It turns out that there are at least three general ways in which we might try to answer that question:
1. Incentive Theory. The first and most common of the three approaches is well illustrated by William Nordhaus’ classic treatment of patent law. Norhaus was primarily concerned with determining the optimal duration of a patent, but his analysis can be applied more generally. Each increase in the duration or strength of patents, he observed, stimulates an increase in inventive activity. The resultant gains to social welfare include the discounted present value of the consumer surplus and producer surplus associated with the distribution of the intellectual products whose creation is thereby induced. At the same time, however, social welfare is reduced by such things as larger administrative costs and larger deadweight losses associated with the higher prices of intellectual products that would have been created even in the absence of the enhanced incentive. Ideally, patent duration or strength should be increased up to the point where the marginal benefits equal the marginal costs.
2. Optimizing Patterns of Productivity. Many years ago, Harold Demsetz argued that the copyright and patent systems play the important roles of letting potential producers of intellectual products know what consumers want and thus channelling productive efforts in directions most likely to enhance consumer welfare. In the past decade, a growing group of theorists has argued that recognition of this function justifies expanding the copyright and patent systems. In Paul Goldstein's words:
The logic of property rights dictates their extension into every corner in which people derive enjoyment and value from literary and artistic works. To stop short of these ends would deprive producers of the signals of consumer preference that trigger and direct their investments.
Won’t adoption of this strategy impede public dissemination of intellectual products? Not at all, say the proponents of this approach. Sales and licenses will ensure that goods get into the hands of people who want them and are able to pay for them. Only in the rare situations in which transaction costs would prevent such voluntary exchanges should intellectual-property owners be denied absolute control over the uses of their works -either through an outright privilege (such as the fair-use doctrine) or through a compulsory licensing system.
3. Rivalrous Invention. The final approach is related to but distinguishable from the second. Its objective is to eliminate or reduce the tendency of intellectual-property rights to foster duplicative or uncoordinated inventive activity. The foundation for this approach was laid by a group of economists, led by Yoram Barzel, who over the last three decades have explored the ways in which competition among firms complicates the impact of the patent system upon inventive activity. This body of literature has sensitized legal theorists to three stages in the inventive process at which economic waste can occur. First, the pot of gold represented by a patent on a pioneering, commercially valuable invention may lure an inefficiently large number of persons and organizations into the race to be the first to reach the invention in question. Second, the race to develop a lucrative improvement on an existing technology may generate a similar scramble for similar reasons at the "secondary" level. Finally, firms may try to "invent around" technologies patented by their rivals—i.e., to develop functionally equivalent but non-infringing technologies—efforts that, although rational from the standpoint of the individual firm, represent a waste of social resources. Heightened awareness of these risks has prompted legal scholars to search for possible reforms of intellectual property law—or of related doctrines, such as antitrust law—that would mitigate the dissipation of resources at these various sites.
Serious difficulties attend efforts to extract from any one of these approaches answers to concrete doctrinal problems. With respect to incentive theory, the primary problem is lack of the information necessary to apply the analytic. To what extent is the production of specific sorts of intellectual products dependent upon maintenance of copyright or patent protection? With respect to some fields, some commentators have answered: very little. Other monetary or nonmonetary rewards—such as profits attributable to lead time, inventors’ opportunities to speculate in markets that will be affected by the revelation of their inventions, the prestige enjoyed by artistic and scientific innovators, academic tenure, and the love of art—would be sufficient to sustain current levels of production even in the absence of intellectual-property protection. Other commentators sharply disagree. The truth is that we don't have enough information to know who is right. Empirical work has suggested that patent law has been more important in stimulating innovation in certain industries (e.g., pharmaceuticals and chemicals) than in others, but has failed to answer the ultimate question of whether the stimulus to innovation is worth its costs. With respect to forms of intellectual-property protection other than patents, we know even less.
Even if we were able to surmount this enormous hurdle—and concluded that society would be better off, on balance, by supplying authors and inventors some sort of special reward—major sources of uncertainty would remain. Is an intellectual-property system the best way of providing that reward or might it be better, as Steven Shavell and Tanguy van Ypersele have recently suggested, for a government agency to estimate the social value of each innovation and pay the innovators that sum out of tax revenues? If the former, how far should creators' entitlements extend? Should they include the right to prepare "derivative works"? To block "experimental uses" of their technologies? To suppress their inventions? Some scholars continue to seek the data necessary to begin to answer questions of this sort. Most have given up the game, despairing of acquiring the kinds of information one would need. Almost everyone agrees that such information is not yet at our disposal. Until it is, lawmakers will gain little guidance from the first variant of the utilitarian approach.
Theorists who seek to optimize patterns of productivity confront less severe information problems. To be sure, they are obliged to make difficult judgments—often with thin data—on such questions as whether the failure of creators to license certain uses of their works results from the fact that such uses are worth less to consumers than preventing them is worth to creators (in which case, the absence of licenses is socially desirable) or from excessively high transaction costs (in which case, the creators should be compelled to grant licenses—for free or for a governmentally determined fee). But inquiries of this sort are not as frighteningly complex as those that confront incentive theorists. However, scholars and lawmakers who take this road confront an additional problem: What is the set of productive activities the incentives for which we are trying to adjust? For the reasons sketched above, if we confine our attention to intellectual products, the optimal legal doctrine may be one that confers upon creators a very generous set of entitlements. Only thereby will potential producers be provided refined signals concerning how consumers wish to make use of which sorts of intellectual products. However, as Glynn Lunney has argued, if we expand our frame of reference, that solution proves highly problematic. In virtually no field of economic activity are innovators empowered to collect the full social value of their innovations. The elementary schoolteacher who develops a new technique for teaching mathematics, the civil-rights activist who discovers a way to reduce racial tension, the physicist who finds a way to integrate our understandings of gravity and quantum mechanics—all of these confer on society benefits that vastly exceed the innovators' incomes. Enlarging the entitlements of intellectual-property owners thus might refine the signals sent to the creators of different sorts of fiction, movies, and software concerning consumers' preferences, but would lead to even more serious overinvestment in intellectual products as opposed to such things as education, community activism, and primary research. Unfortunately, Lunney's proposed response to this problem—reducing copyright protection until the creators of entertainment receive rewards no greater than the returns available to innovators in other fields—would sacrifice most of the economic benefits highlighted by Demsetz and Goldstein. The optimal solution is thus far from clear.
Theorists bent on avoiding redundant inventive activity have problems of their own. The most serious difficulty arises from the fact that reducing social waste at one stage of the inventive process commonly increases it at another. Thus, for example, in the leading article in this subfield, Edmund Kitch highlighted the advantages of granting to the developer of a pioneering invention an expansive set of entitlements, thereby enabling him or her to coordinate research and development dedicated to improving the invention, thus reducing the dissipation of rents at the secondary level. However, as Robert Merges argues, granting generous patents on pioneering inventions will exacerbate rent dissipation at the primary level. An even greater – and more socially wasteful – number of persons or firms will now race to be the first to develop pioneering patents. Mark Grady and Jay Alexander have developed an ingenious theory for determining which of these dangers is more salient in particular cases. Primary inventions that have only modest social value but that "signal" a large potential for improvement are likely to draw potential improvers like flies. To cut down on the swarms, the developer of the primary invention should be granted a broad patent of the sort commended by Kitch. Primary inventions with large social value but minimal "signalling" power should, instead, be given only narrow patents—to reduce the risk of duplicative activity at the primary level. Finally, and most surprisingly, socially valuable inventions so well conceived they cannot be improved upon should be given no patents whatsoever, thereby discouraging rent dissipation at both levels. This typology, though intriguing, has many defects, both practical and theoretical. To begin with, it is difficult to determine in advance which inventions “signal” possibilities for improvement. Next, what are we to do with cases in which the invention at issue is of a type that both is highly socially valuable (thus creating a danger of waste at the primary level) and signals a large number of improvements (thus creating a danger of waste at the secondary level)? Finally, Robert Merges and Richard Nelson point out that efforts, through broad patent grants, to mitigate rent dissipation at the secondary level may have serious economic side effects. Instead of enabling the original inventor to coordinate efficiently the exploitation of the technology, it may lead to "satisficing" behavior and an inefficiently narrow focus on improvements related to the primary inventor's principal line of business. In short, a combination of limited information and theoretical tensions render this third approach just as indeterminate in practice as the other two.
Even if the difficulties specific to each of the three economic approaches could be resolved, an even more formidable problem would remain: there exists no general theory that integrates the three lines of inquiry. How should the law be adjusted in order simultaneously (i) to balance optimally incentives for creativity and concomitant efficiency losses, (ii) to send potential producers of all kinds of goods accurate signals concerning what consumers want, and (iii) to minimize rent dissipation? To date, no theorist has even attempted to answer this overarching question. Until that challenge is successfully met, the power of the utilitarian approach to provide guidance to lawmakers will be sharply limited.
Similar difficulties afflict efforts to apply labor theory to intellectual property. The problems begin at the threshold. As was true of utilitarianism, it is not altogether clear that the labor theory supports any sort of intellectual-property law. The source of the difficulty is ambiguity in Locke's original rationale for property rights—from which this entire theory springs. Why exactly should labor upon a resource held "in common" entitle the laborer to a property right in the resource itself? Scattered in Chapter 5 of the Second Treatise can be found six related but distinguishable answers to that question.
(1) "Natural reason" tells us that men have "a right to their Preservation," and the only practicable way in which they can sustain themselves is by individually "appropriating" materials necessary to provide them food and shelter.
(2) Religious obligation reinforces the foregoing proposition. God did not merely give the Earth to man in common, but "commanded" him to "subdue" it—i.e., "improve it for the benefit of Life"—which man can do only by both laboring upon it and appropriating the fruits of that labor.
(3) Intuitions regarding self-ownership point in the same direction. Each person plainly has "a Property in his own Person," including the "Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands." It seems only natural that whatever he mixes that Labour with should belong to him as well.
(4) The moral value of work reinforces the foregoing insight. God gave the World to "the Industrious and Rational, … not to the Fancy or Covetousness of the Quarrelsom and Contentious." It is thus fitting that the former acquire, through their labour, title to that which they labor upon.
(5) A sense of proportionality and fairness also figures in the inquiry. Most of the value of things useful to men derives not from the value of the raw materials from which they are made, but from the labour expended on them. It is thus not "so Strange" that, when determining whether ownership should be assigned to the worker or the community, the individual "Property of labour should be able to overbalance the Community of Land."
(6) Finally, Locke relies throughout the chapter on an imagery of productive transformation. By labouring upon unclaimed land or other resources, the worker changes them from wild to domestic, from raw to cultivated, from chaotic to ordered, from pointless to purposeful. The self-evident desirability of that transformation supports a reward for the worker.
Whether Locke's theory provides support for intellectual property depends upon which of these various rationales one regards as primary. If, for example, one sees arguments 4 and 5 as the crux of the matter, then the Second Treatise would seem to provide strong support for most sorts of intellectual property. After all, most authors and inventors work hard, and their intellectual labor typically is a far more important contributor to the total value of their creations than the raw materials they have employed. On the other hand, if arguments 1 and 2 are stressed, the case for intellectual-property rights is far weaker. As Seana Shiffrin shows, crucial to these two arguments is the proposition that certain articles essential to life, such as food, cannot be enjoyed in common; "their use must, of necessity, be exclusive." Yet intellectual products plainly are not like that. Not only is access to them typically not necessary for survival, but they can be used by an infinite number of persons, simultaneously or in sequence, without being used up.
Whether Locke's theory provides support for any intellectual-property rights is thus uncertain. It depends on which aspects of Locke's original theory are dominant. Locke did not say, and no interpreter of his work has yet provided us a convincing way of ascertaining his original intent. Assume, however, that we somehow surmount the barricade identified by Shiffrin and conclude that intellectual labor does give rise to a natural entitlement to its fruits—an entitlement that the state must recognize and enforce. Other difficulties await us.
Perhaps the most formidable is the question: What, for these purposes, counts as "intellectual labor"? There are at least four plausible candidates: (1) time and effort (hours spent in front of the computer or in the lab); (2) activity in which one would rather not engage (hours spent in the studio when one would rather be sailing); (3) activity that results in social benefits (work on socially valuable inventions); (4) creative activity (the production of new ideas). The first of the four may be closest to Locke's original intent, but he was not focusing on intellectual labor. Justin Hughes has shown that serious arguments can be made in support of the both the second and the third. And Lawrence Becker reminds us how important the fourth is to our images of deserving authors and inventors. No grounds on which we might select one or another are readily apparent.
Unfortunately, our choice among these four options will often make a big difference. The third, for instance, suggests that we should insist, before issuing a patent or other intellectual-property right, that the discovery in question satisfy a meaningful "utility" requirement; the other three would not. The second would counsel against conferring legal rights on artists who love their work; the other three point in the opposite direction. The fourth would suggest that we add to copyright law a requirement analogous to the patent doctrine of "nonobviousness"; the others would not. In short, a lawmaker's inability to choose among the four will often be disabling.
Similar troubles arise when one tries to apply Locke's conception of "the commons" to the field of intellectual property. What exactly are the raw materials, owned by the community as a whole, with which individual workers mix their labor in order to produce intellectual products? At least seven possibilities come to mind:
(a) the universe of “facts”;
(b) languages—the vocabularies and grammars we use to communicate and from which we fashion novel intellectual products;
(c) our cultural heritage—the set of artifacts (novels, paintings, musical compositions, movies, etc.) that we "share" and that gives our culture meaning and coherence;
(d) the set of ideas currently apprehended by at least one person but not owned by anyone;
(e) the set of ideas currently apprehended by at least one person;
(f) the set of all "reachable" ideas – that is, all ideas that lie within the grasp of people today;
(g) the set of all "possible ideas" – that is, all ideas that someone might think of.
When applying the Lockean argument to intellectual property, it will often make a difference which of these options one selects. For example, option (c) is difficult to reconcile with contemporary copyright and trademark law, under which much of our cultural heritage – Mickey Mouse, "Gone with the Wind," the shape of a Coke bottle – is owned, not by the community, but by individual persons or organizations; options (a) and (b) present no such difficulty. Patent law is consistent with option (d) but not (e) -insofar as it permits ownership of many extant "ideas." Copyright law, which (at least formally) does not allow the ownership of any "ideas" (only distinctive ways of "expressing" them) meshes comfortably with either (d) or (e). As Justin Hughes has shown, the Lockean "sufficiency" proviso can be satisfied fairly easily if one chooses option (f)—on the theory that the deployment of most ideas enables other people to "reach" an even larger set of ideas and thus enlarges rather than subtracts from the commons. By contrast, if one adopts option (g)—as both Wendy Gordon and Robert Nozick appear to do—the sufficiency proviso becomes a good deal more constraining (a topic to which we will return in a minute). Which is the correct approach? Who knows?
Suppose we arbitrarily select one interpretation—say, option (d). Trying to fit it into the Lockean analytic quickly gives rise to three additional, related problems. First, the act of mixing labor with a piece of the commons does not, under any of the various extant intellectual-property regimes, work the way Locke supposed real-property law works. When one mixes one's physical labor with a plot of virgin land, one should acquire, Locke suggested, a natural right not merely to the crops one produces but to the land itself. By contrast, when one mixes one's intellectual labor with an existing idea, one acquires a property right only to the "original" or "novel" material one has generated, not to the idea with which one began. Second, the set of entitlements one acquires does not have the kind of exclusivity Locke apparently attributed to real-property rights. For example, the issuance of a patent on a better mousetrap prevents others from making that mousetrap, but not from reading the patent and using the information contained therein to make an even better mousetrap. The issuance of a copyright on a novel prevents others from copying it but not from reading it, discussing it, parodying it, etc. Finally, Locke suggested that the property rights one acquires through labor upon resources held in common do and should last forever—i.e., are alienable, devisable, and inheritable indefinitely. Most intellectual-property rights, by contrast, sooner or later expire.
One might respond that none of these observations indicates that the application of labor-desert theory to intellectual property is indeterminate. They indicate merely that intellectual-property law would have to be radically revised to conform to the Lockean scheme. Perhaps. But the scale of the necessary revision is daunting. Is it plausible—on Lockean or any other premises—that by working to express in distinctive form the idea that infidelity usually corrodes a marriage, one would acquire ownership of the idea itself? Is it plausible that, by registering the trademark "Nike," one could prevent others from using it in any way – including reproducing it in an essay on intellectual property? If not, then what set of more limited entitlements would satisfy the obligation of the state to "determine" and "settle" natural property rights? Locke's argument contains few clues.
We have not exhausted, unfortunately, the troubles associated with the "sufficiency" proviso. Some of the commentators who have sought to harness Locke's argument to intellectual property have seen little difficulty in the requirement that a laborer leave "as much and as good" for others. Justin Hughes, for example, emphasizes the myriad ways in which the expansion of the set of available ideas stimulated by intellectual property improves the lot of everyone. Robert Nozick, as suggested above, sees the sufficiency proviso as somewhat more constraining, but has identified to his satisfaction a way of structuring patent law that avoids violating it. Wendy Gordon, by contrast, construes the proviso as a much more serious limitation on the scope of intellectual-property rights. Conferring monopoly privileges on the creators of intellectual products, she claims, can hurt more than help the public. Take the word "Olympics.” If the term did not exist, we would have contrived other ways to communicate the notion of periodic amateur international sports competitions untainted by ideology or warfare. But because the word does exist, we have become dependent on it. No other word or collection of words quite captures the idea. Consequently, if we now prohibit "unauthorized" uses of the word – for example, in connection with the "Gay Olympics" or on a T-shirt highlighting the hypocritical way in which the ideal has been applied in recent years—we have left the public worse off than if the word never existed. Fidelity to the Lockean proviso (and to a more general "no-harm" principle that runs through Locke's work), Gordon insists, requires that we withhold property rights in situations such as these. Once again, a wide range of interpretations of an important component of Locke's theory is available, and no one member of the set seems plainly superior to the others.
We come, finally, to the well-known problem of proportionality. Nozick asks: If I pour my can of tomato juice into the ocean, do I own the ocean? Analogous questions abound in the field of intellectual property. If I invent a drug that prevents impotence, do I deserve to collect for 20 years the extraordinary amount of money that men throughout the world would pay for access to the drug? If I write a novel about a war between two space empires, may I legitimately demand compensation from people who wish to prepare motion-picture adaptations, write sequels, manufacture dolls based on my characters, or produce T-shirts emblazoned with bits of my dialogue? How far, in short, do my rights go? Locke gives us little guidance.
Private property rights, argue contemporary personality theorists, should be recognized when and only when they would promote human flourishing by protecting or fostering fundamental human needs or interests. The first step in the application of this perspective to intellectual property is identification of the specific needs or interests one wishes to promote. As Jeremy Waldron has argued, a wide variety of interests might be deemed fundamental, each of which arguably could be advanced by a system of property rights. Here are some:
(1) Peace of Mind. An exclusive right to determine how certain resources shall be used might be thought essential to avoid moral exhaustion—the sense of guilt that arises from awareness that one's actions, one's use of the commons, disadvantages countless other people.
(2) Privacy. Property rights may be necessary to provide persons "refuge[s] from the general society of mankind"—places where they can either be alone or enjoy intimacy with others.
(3) Self-Reliance. An exclusive right to control certain resources may be thought necessary to enable persons to become independent, self-directing.
(4) Self-Realization as a Social Being. The freedom to own and thus trade things may be necessary to enable persons to help shape their social environments and establish their places in communities.
(5) Self-Realization as an Individual. Ownership of property may be necessary to enable a person to assert his or her will and to be recognized as a free agent by others.
(6) Security and Leisure. Control over a certain amount of resources may be necessary to free persons from obsession with obtaining the means of survival, the "impulsion of desire," and thus to enable them to attend to higher pursuits.
(7) Responsibility. Virtues like "prudence," self-direction, and foresight may be cultivated by the opportunity and obligation to manage one's own resources.
(8) Identity. Selfhood may be thought to depend upon the ability to project a continuing life plan into the future, which is turn is fostered by connection to and responsibility for property.
(9) Citizenship. Ownership of a certain amount of resources might be thought necessary to put a person in an economic and psychological position to participate effectively in the polity.
(10) Benevolence. Property rights may be thought essential to enable a person to express ideas of what is beautiful or to enact benevolent wishes.
Six of these ten arguments—1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 – provide support for some system of intellectual-property rights but give us little guidance in deciding which entitlements to recognize. To the extent that intellectual-property rights have economic value and may be bought and sold, gained and lost, they may contribute to their owners' abilities to avoid guilt, become autonomous, engage in independent political action, etc. But those values could be promoted equally well by providing persons rights to land or shares in private corporations. Consequently, a lawmaker persuaded by one of these claims would be inspired to construct some system of private ownership of resources, but would have little help in determining which resources to privatize and which to leave to the public.
Personhood-based guidelines for crafting intellectual-property rights thus must be found, if anywhere, in some combination of themes 2, 5, 8, and 10: the interests of privacy, individual self-realization, identity, and benevolence. But the writers who have sought to extract from those sources answers to specific questions have come to widely divergent conclusions. Here are some examples:
When an author has revealed her work to the world, does it nevertheless continue to fall within the zone of her "personhood"—so that she may legitimately claim a right to restrict its further communication? Neil Netanel, relying on an exploration of the ideal of "autonomy," thinks yes. Lloyd Weinreb, reasoning that, "once the individual has communicated her expression publicly, it takes on a 'life of its own' and . . . its further communication does not involve her autonomous self," thinks no.
Assume the answer to the previous question is yes. May the author alienate his right to control the copying of his work? Kant, reasoning that "an author's interest in deciding how and when to speak [is] an inalienable part of his personality," thought no. Hegel, reasoning that expressions of mental aptitudes (as opposed to the aptitudes themselves) were "external to the author and therefore freely alienable," thought yes.
Should an artist's investment of his self in a work of visual art – say, a painting or sculpture – prevent others from imitating his creation? Hegel thought not—on the ground that the copy would be "essentially a product of the copyist's own mental and technical ability." Justin Hughes seems to take the opposite position.
Is the protection of trade secrets necessary to protect privacy interests? Edwin Hettinger thinks no—on the ground that most trade secrets are owned by corporations, which do not have the "personal features privacy is intended to protect.” Lynn Sharp Paine disagrees. She argues that the right to privacy includes the freedom to reveal information to a limited circle of friends or associates without fear that it will be exposed to the world—a freedom that trade-secret law shields.
Is a celebrity's persona a sufficiently important repository of selfhood that other persons ought not be permitted to exploit that persona commercially without permission? Justin Hughes suggests yes, reasoning that "[a]s long as an individual identifies with his personal image, he will have a personality stake in that image." Michael Madow, insisting that the "creative (and autonomous) role of the media and the audience in the
meaning-making process" are at least as important as the "personality" of the celebrity, sharply disagrees.
Two related problems underlie these and many other disagreements. First, the conceptions of the self—the images of "personhood" that, through adjustments of intellectual-property doctrine, we are trying to nurture or protect – that underlie most avatars of personality theory are too abstract and thin to provide answers to many specific questions. Either a more fully articulated vision of human nature (that would forthrightly address such grand questions as the importance of creativity to the soul) or a conception of personhood tied more tightly to a particular culture and time seems necessary if we are to provide lawmakers guidance on the kinds of issue that beset them.
Second, no personality theorist has yet dealt adequately with what Margaret Radin once called the problem of fetishism. Which of the many tastes exhibited by current members of American culture should be indulged, and which should not? The quest for individuality? Nationalism? Nostalgia for a real or imagined ethnic or racial identity? The hope that audiences will treat one's creations with respect? The hunger for fifteen minutes (or more) of fame? Yearnings or orientations of all of these sorts are implicated by intellectual-property disputes. Deciding which merit our deference is essential to determining how those disputes should be resolved.
The limitations of the guidance provided by general theories of intellectual property is perhaps easiest to see with respect to the last of the four approaches. Lawmakers who try to harness social-planning theory must make difficult choices at two levels. The first and most obvious involves formulating a vision of a just and attractive culture. What sort of society should we try, through adjustments of copyright, patent, and trademark law, to promote? The possibilities are endless.
The range of options is illustrated by my own effort in a recent essay to bring social-planning theory to bear on the question of the proper shape of intellectual-property law on the Internet. I offered, as the foundation for that analysis, a sketch of an attractive intellectual culture. A condensed version of that sketch follows:
Consumer Welfare. Other things being equal, a society whose members are happy is better than one whose members are, by their own lights, less happy. Applied to the field of intellectual property, this guideline urges us to select a combination of rules that will maximize consumer welfare by optimally balancing incentives for creativity with incentives for dissemination and use. That goal must, however, be tempered by other aspirations.
A Cornucopia of Information and Ideas. An attractive culture would be one in which citizens had access to a wide array of information, ideas, and forms of entertainment. Variety in this sense helps make life stimulating and enlivening. Access to a broad range of intellectual products is also crucial to widespread attainment of two related conditions central to most conceptions of the good life—namely, self-determination and self-expression—both by providing persons the materials crucial to self-construction, and by fostering a general condition of cultural diversity, which enables and compels individuals to shape themselves.
A Rich Artistic Tradition. The more complex and resonant the shared language of a culture, the more opportunities it affords its members for creativity and subtlety in communication and thought. For reasons best explored by Ronald Dworkin, recognition of that fact points toward governmental polices designed to make available to the public "a rich stock of illustrative and comparative collections of art" and, more generally, to foster "a tradition of [artistic] innovation."
Distributive Justice. To the greatest extent practicable, all persons should have access to the informational and artistic resources described above.
Semiotic Democracy. In an attractive society, all persons would be able to participate in the process of making cultural meaning. Instead of being merely passive consumers of images and artifacts produced by others, they would help shape the world of ideas and symbols in which they live.
Sociability. An attractive society is one rich in "communities of memory." Persons' capacity to construct rewarding lives will be enhanced if they have access to a variety of "constitutive" groups – in “real” space and in “virtual” space.
Respect. Appreciation of the extent to which self-expression is often a form of self-creation should make people respectful of others' work.
The controversial character of a vision of this sort is immediately apparent. Many of its components—for example, the criterion of distributive justice—have for centuries been the subjects of furious debate among political philosophers. It is plainly implausible that theorists of intellectual-property could resolve controversies of this scale in the course of analyses of copyright or patent doctrine.
Unfortunately, the choice of a particular social vision by no means exhausts the difficulties associated with this fourth approach. Equally serious problems commonly arise when one tries to apply such a vision to a specific doctrinal problem. Take the problem of parody, for example. Intellectual products that make fun of other intellectual products are becoming increasingly common: "Don't leave home without it" on a condom container crafted to resemble an American Express card. Comic books depicting Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck participating in a drug-infested, promiscuous culture. Altered photographs of John Wayne suggesting that he was homosexual, embellished with the caption, "It's a bitch to be butch." Trademarks that allude humorously to other trademarks ("Dom Popignon" popcorn; "Lardache" bluejeans). Should these be permitted? The particular social vision sketched above points in inconsistent directions. On one hand, permitting, even encouraging, parody of this sort would seem to facilitate semiotic democracy. Parody erodes the control over the meanings of cultural artifacts exerted by powerful institutions and expands opportunities for creativity by others. On the other hand, parodies (especially if effective) may cut seriously into the legitimate personhood interests of the artists who originally fashioned the parodied artifacts. Which of these two concerns should predominate must be determined by reflection on the cultural context and significance of individual cases. The social vision on its own does not provide us much guidance.
The indeterminacy of the personality and social-planning perspectives has long been recognized. That recognition is reflected, for example, in the common accusation that those perspectives are "illiberal" insofar as they seek to regulate persons' behavior on the basis of necessarily controversial "theories of the good"—the sort of thing that governments ought not do. A closely related, equally common charge is that the social-planning and personhood perspectives are "paternalistic" insofar as they curtail persons' freedom on the basis of conceptions of what is "good for them" with which they themselves may not agree. By contrast, the utilitarian and labor-desert approaches, especially the former, have enjoyed an aura of neutrality, objectivity, and above all determinacy. That aura helps to explain why courts, when presented with difficult problems of statutory interpretation, have sought guidance most often from economic arguments and least often from social-planning arguments. One of the burdens of this essay has been to disrupt that pattern—to show that the prescriptive powers of all four arguments are sharply limited.
That conclusion, however, does not imply that the theories have no practical use. In two respects, I suggest, they retain considerable value. First, while they have failed to make good on their promises to provide comprehensive prescriptions concerning the ideal shape of intellectual-property law, they can help identify nonobvious attractive resolutions of particular problems. Second, they can foster valuable conversations among the various participants in the lawmaking process.
A good example of the first of these uses of theory involves the recent history of the "right of publicity"—the entitlement of celebrities to prevent (or demand compensation for) commercial depictions or imitations of their faces, voices, distinctive turns of phrase, characteristic poses, etc.. Until quite recently, this right was widely thought by American courts and commentators to be "commonsensical." For example, the author of the principal treatise on the subject describes the right of publicity as "a self-evident legal right, needing little intellectual rationalization to justify its existence." Sentiments of this sort prompted one state after another to recognize the entitlement -either through legislation or through common-law decisionmaking—and then give it generous scope.
In the mid-1990s, a small group of commentators began drawing explicitly on theories of intellectual property to criticize the right of publicity. None of the four major perspectives, they argued, provided support for such an entitlement. (a) From a utilitarian standpoint, the right seems senseless. It is not necessary to induce people to cultivate distinctive identities. It encourages people, once they have become celebrities, to coast on their endorsement incomes rather than continue to provide the public the services that made them famous. And it wastes social resources by inducing excessive numbers of adolescents to seek fame. (b) Nor is the right justified as a reward for labor. Often, fame results from luck, fickle public tastes, or the efforts of third parties more than it does from the efforts of the celebrity. In any event, celebrities are adequately remunerated in other ways for their labor. (c) If protecting personhood were one's goal, the right of celebrity would be a poor way to achieve it. The right protects the ability of celebrities to make money from their personae – an ability not particularly close to the heart of personality development—and does nothing to prevent disclosure of intimate details concerning celebrities’ lives. (d) Last but not least, the right of celebrity exacerbates the centralization of semiotic power in the United States and undermines popular control over "popular culture."
A few influential courts have begun to take notice. For example, in a recent decision, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit relied explicitly on this emerging body of critical commentary to turn aside a challenge by the Major League Baseball Players to the sale of a set of baseball cards that parodied the league's stars. The power of theory is especially evident in the following passage:
Parodies of celebrities are an especially valuable means of expression because of the role celebrities play in modern society. As one commentator explained, celebrities are "common points of reference for millions of individuals who may never interact with one another, but who share, by virtue of their participation in a mediated culture, a common experience and a collective memory." Through their pervasive presence in the media, sports and entertainment celebrities come to symbolize certain ideas and values. … Celebrities, then, are an important element of the shared communicative resources of our cultural domain.
Because celebrities are an important part of our public vocabulary, a parody of a celebrity does not merely lampoon the celebrity, but exposes the weakness of the idea or value that the celebrity symbolizes in society. … In order to effectively criticize society, parodists need access to images that mean something to people, and thus celebrity parodies are a valuable communicative resource. Restricting the use of celebrity identities restricts the communication of ideas.
A federal District Court recently employed a similar approach in rejecting a claim by Mayor Rudolf Giuliani that an advertisement describing New York Magazine as “possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for” violated Giuliani’s right of publicity. If this style of analysis becomes more popular, the doctrinal tide may well turn.
Another example of the deployment of theory to suggest solutions to specific problems comes from my own work. Should the producer of an intellectual product be permitted to engage in price discrimination – i.e., to charge prices that vary with consumers’ ability and willingness to pay for access to the product? When it is feasible, producers frequently try to market their wares in this fashion. Various doctrines in current intellectual property law limit (though certainly do not eliminate) their ability to do so. For instance, some kinds of patent license terms (e.g., agreements to purchase only from the patentee staple items of commerce for use in conjunction with the patented technology), though highly effective price-discrimination tools, are currently treated as “patent misuse.” The first-sale doctrine in copyright law prevents a seller from prohibiting low-margin consumers from reselling the copies they purchase to high-margin potential consumers, thereby limiting the power of the seller to exploit the latter. And some aspects of current trademark law concerning “parallel imports” discourage trademark owners from charging less for their products in poor countries than in rich countries. Should these rules, or related doctrines in contract law, be modified?
One's initial reaction is likely to be: no. Charging whatever the market will bear has an unsavory flavor. It smacks of greed and has no obvious social benefit. Impressions of that sort contributed to the Robinson-Patman Act and have colored some courts’ responses to price discrimination in the distribution of intellectual products.
Immersion in intellectual-property theory, however, suggests a different answer. At least two of the four approaches reviewed in this essay—utilitarianism and social-planning theory—converge to suggest that price discrimination in the sale of intellectual products may in some contexts be a good thing. Recall that one of the objectives of economic theorists is simultaneously to increase incentives for creative activity and to reduce the associated welfare losses. Price discrimination—by enabling producers to charge eager consumers more than less eager consumers—makes such an unlikely combination possible. By discriminating among subgroups of consumers, a producer is able both to increase his or her own monopoly profits and to reduce the number of consumers who are priced out of the market. In combination, these two effects sharply increase the ratio between incentives for creativity and welfare losses. Finally, price discrimination makes possible greater approximation of the ideal of distributive justice discussed briefly in Part III.D. Usually (though not always), the consumers able and willing to spend substantial sums for an intellectual product are more wealthy that the consumers able and willing to spend only a little. Because of that circumstance, price discrimination often enables a larger group of poor consumers to gain access to a product—and to pay less than their wealthy counterparts. Widespread adoption of this marketing strategy would thus enable us to approach the goal of providing all persons equal access to works of the intellect.
To be sure, price discrimination in some contexts may have substantial disadvantages. The resources expended in establishing and administering price discrimination schemes represent social losses that at least partially offset the efficiency gains described above. Price discrimination sometimes requires the producer to obtain information about the tastes or habits of potential consumers, and the gathering of that information may invade their privacy. In the patent context, the gathering of analogous information concerning the business practices of licensees may facilitate the formation of cartels. Finally, price discrimination might sometimes result in pricing out of the market consumers interested in making transformative uses of intellectual products. Only through careful analysis of the markets for specific sorts of intellectual products can it be ascertained whether these drawbacks exceed the economic and social benefits reviewed above. But a combination of utilitarian and social-planning theory creates a nonobvious prima facie case for the expansion of opportunities for price discrimination.
The other reason why intellectual-property theory retains value is that it can catalyze useful conversations among the various people and institutions responsible for the shaping of the law. More specifically, continued explicit discussion of the kinds of themes addressed in this essay would be valuable in three contexts. First, interaction among Congress, the courts, and administrative agencies (in particular, the Patent and Trademark Office) would be improved. Congress, when it adopts or amends intellectual-property laws, frequently fails to anticipate difficult interpretive questions. If the courts, when compelled in the context of individual disputes to resolve those questions, articulate a general theory they are using to guide their decisionmaking, they increase the likelihood that Congress, during the next general revision of the relevant statute, will be able thoughtfully either to endorse or to reject the courts’ judgments. Much the same can be said of decision-making by administrative agencies that are then appealed to the courts.
Second, explicit reliance upon intellectual-property theories will improve conversations between lawmakers and their constituents. Why should the term of a copyright be extended from the life of the author plus 50 years to the life of the author plus 70 years? Because the additional time is necessary to encourage additional creativity? Because authors deserve greater rewards for their labors? Because the culture would be worse off if works like “Steamboat Willie” were released to the public domain? Why should it be possible to register as a federal trademark the sound made by motorcycles bearing a particular brand – thereby preventing other manufacturers from making motorcycles that sound the same? Because otherwise consumers will be confused concerning the manufacturers of the motorcycles they are buying? Because a culture in which motorcycles can be recognized from a distance by the noise they make is better than a culture in which they cannot? Because employees of the first company deserve a reward for the effort they invested in constructing a muffler that emits a distinctive guttural sound? By articulating and defending a theoretical rationale for each innovation, Congress (in the first example) or the courts (in the second example) would increase the ability of the public at large or, more plausibly, affected interest groups critically to appraise the change. Lawmakers, in short, would become more accountable.
Finally, through continued conversations among scholars, legislators, judges, litigants, lobbyists, and the public at large, there may lie some hope of addressing the inadequacies of the existing theories. For the reasons sketched above, the analytical difficulties associated with the effort to apply the Lockean version of labor theory to intellectual property may well prove insurmountable, but there may be some non-Lockean way of capturing the popular intuition that the law should reward people for hard work. Only by continuing to discuss the possibility – and trying to bring some alternative variant of labor theory to bear on real cases – can we hope to make progress. Much the same can be said of the gaps in personality theory. The conception of selfhood employed by current theorists may be too thin and acontextual to provide lawmakers much purchase on doctrinal problems. But perhaps, through continued reflection and conversation, we can do better.
Conversational uses of intellectual-property theories of the sort sketched above would be different from the way in which such theories most often have been deployed in the past. Instead of trying to compel readers, through a combination of noncontroversial premises and inexorable logic, to accept a particular interpretation or reform of legal doctrine, the scholar or lawmaker would attempt, by deploying a combination of theory and application, to strike a chord of sympathy in his or her audience. The sought-after response would not be, “I can’t see any holes in the argument,” but rather, “That rings true to me.”
[*] This essay has benefited substantially from the comments of Charles Fried, Paul Goldstein, Jim Harris, Ned Hettinger, Edmund Kitch, Ed McCaffery, Stephen Munzer, Samuel Oddi, J.E. Penner, F.M. Scherer, Seanna Shiffrin, John T. Sanders, Stewart Sterk, and a generous group of anonymous outside readers.
 The history of these doctrines in the United States—and possible reasons for their growing importance -are considered in William Fisher, “Geistiges Eigentum – ein ausufernder Rechtsbereich: Die Geschichte des Ideenschutzes in den Vereinigten Staaten,” in Eigentum im internationalen Vergleich (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999) (available in English at http://www.law.harvard.edu/Academic_Affairs/coursepages/tfisher/iphistory.html).
 William Landes and Richard Posner, "An Economic Analysis of Copyright Law," Journal of Legal Studies 18 (1989): 325. This argument is derived in substantial part from Jeremy Bentham, A Manual of Political Economy (New York: Putnam, 1839); John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 5th ed. (New York: Appleton, 1862); and A.C. Pigou, The Economics of Welfare, 2d ed. (London: Macmillan & Co., 1924).
 William Landes and Richard Posner, "Trademark Law: An Economic Perspective," Journal of Law and Economics 30 (1987): 265. Other works that address trademark law in similar terms include Nicholas Economides, “The Economics of Trademarks,” Trademark Reporter 78 (1988): 523-39 and Daniel McClure, “Trademarks and Competition: The Recent History,” Law and Contemporary Problems 59 (1996): 13-43.
 See, for example, Justin Hughes, "The Philosophy of Intellectual Property," Georgetown Law Journal 77 (1988): 287, at 299-330. These initial impressions are examined in more detail in part III, below.
 Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), pp. 178-82.
 John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (P. Laslett, ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), Second Treatise, sec. 27.
 See Margaret Jane Radin, Reinterpreting Property (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Jeremy Waldron, The Right to Private Property (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988).
 See Hughes, “Philosophy of Intellectual Property,” at 330-350.
 See, for example, James Harrington, Oceana (Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1979); Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (New York: Norton, 1972); Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (New York: International Publishers, 1964); Morris Cohen, "Property & Sovereignty," Cornell Law Quarterly 13 (1927): 8; Frank Michelman, “Law’s Republic,” Yale Law Journal 97 (1988): 1493; William Fisher, Morton Horwitz, and Thomas Reed, eds., American Legal Realism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
 “Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society,” Yale Law Journal 106 (1996): 283. See also idem., “Asserting Copyright’s Democratic Principles in the Global Arena,” Vanderbilt Law Review 51 (1998): 217-329.
 See, for example, Rosemary J. Coombe, "Objects of Property and Subjects of Politics: Intellectual Property Laws and Democratic Dialogue," Texas Law Review 69 (1991): 1853; Niva Elkin-Koren, "Copyright Law and Social Dialogue on the Information Superhighway: The Case Against Copyright Liability of Bulletin Board Operators," Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 13 (1995): 345; Michael Madow, "Private Ownership of Public Image: Popular Culture and Publicity Rights," California Law Review 81 (1993): 125; William Fisher, "Reconstructing the Fair Use Doctrine," Harvard Law Review 101 (1988): 1659-1795, at 1744-94.
 Gregory S. Alexander, Commodity and Propriety (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), p. 1.
 Article I, section 8, clause 8 of the United States Constitution empowers Congress "to Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
 See, for example, Fox Film Corp. v. Doyal, 286 U.S. 123, 127-28 (1932); Kendall v. Winsor, 62 U.S. (21 How.) 322, 327-28 (1858).
 See, for example, Hustler Magazine v. Moral Majority, 796 F.2d 1148, 1151 (9th Cir. 1986); Consumers Union of United States v. General Signal Corp., 724 F.2d 1044, 1048 (2d Cir. 1983).
 Testimony of Elizabeth Janeway, Copyright Law Revision: Hearings on H.R. 4347, 5680, 6831, 6835 Before Subcomm. No. 3 of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 89th Cong., 1st Sess. (1965), reprinted in George S. Grossman, Omnibus Copyright Revision Legislative History, vol. 5 (1976), p. 100.
 347 U.S. 201, 219 (1954). For a similar argument in the patent context, see Motion Picture Patents Co. v. Universal Film Manufacturing Co., 243 U.S. 502 (1917).
 Many examples are set forth in Stewart E. Sterk, “Rhetoric and Reality in Copyright Law,” Michigan Law Review 94 (1996): 1197; Alfred C. Yen, "Restoring the Natural Law: Copyright as Labor and Possession," Ohio State Law Journal 51 (1990): 517; and Lloyd Weinreb, "Copyright for Functional Expression," Harvard Law Review 111 (1998): 1149-1254, at 1211-14.
 See Thomas Cotter, "Pragmatism, Economics, and the Droit Moral," North Carolina Law Review 76 (1997): 1, 6-27; Jeri D. Yonover, "The ‘Dissing’ of Da Vinci: The Imaginary Case of Leonardo v. Duchamp: Moral Rights, Parody, and Fair Use," Valparaiso University Law Review 29 (1995): 935-1004.
 See Niva Elkin-Koren, "Cyberlaw and Social Change: A Democratic Approach to Copyright Law in Cyberspace," Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 14 (1996): 215.
 Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539, 563 (1985). See also Time v. Bernard Geis Associates, 293 F.Supp. 130, 146 (S.D.N.Y. 1968); Rosemont Enterprises v. Random House, 366 F.2d 303, 307 (2d Cir. 1966); Holdridge v. Knight Publishing Corp., 214 F.Supp. 921, 924 (S.D.Cal. 1963).
 See Fisher et al., American Legal Realism, p. 170.
 But cf. Weinreb, "Copyright for Functional Expression.”
 See Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539, 564 (1985); Salinger v. Random House, 811 F.2d 90, 97 (2d Cir. 1987).
 1783 Conn. Pub. Acts Jan. Sess., reprinted in U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Enactments of the United States, 1783-1906, at 11 (2d ed., Washington: G.P.O., 1906).
 Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539, 545-46 (1985).
 The pertinent literature is enormous. A few entries, suggesting the importance of the divisions drawn in the text, are H.L.A. Hart, "Between Utility and Rights," Columbia Law Review 79 (1979): 828; Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
 For discussions and illustrations of the canon, see, J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman, eds., Property (Nomos XXII) (New York: New York University Press, 1980); Alan Ryan, Property and Political Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984); Waldron, Right to Private Property. To be sure, not all property theorists are inclined to maintain the traditional boundaries between natural law, utilitarianism, and theories of the good. For one prominent pluralist theory, see Stephen R. Munzer, A Theory of Property (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
 For more thorough discussion of this standard, see Richard Posner, Economic Analysis of Law (3d ed., Boston: Little, Brown, 1986), pp. 11-15.
 See Nicholas Kaldor, "Welfare Propositions in Economics and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Economic Journal 69 (1939): 549-52.
 For explorations of these difficulties, see, for example, Baker, “Starting Points in Economic Analysis of Law,” Hofstra Law Review 8 (1980): 939, 966-72; Duncan Kennedy, “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Entitlement Problems: A Critique,” Stanford Law Review 33 (1981): 387; Ronald Dworkin, “Is Wealth a Value?,” Journal of Legal Studies 9 (1980): 191; Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, “Principles of Fairness versus Human Welfare: On the Evaluation of Legal Policy,” John M. Olin Foundation, Discussion Paper No. 277 (2000).
 A thorough review of the many varieties of economic analysis may be found in Peter Menell, “Intellectual Property: General Theories,” Encyclopedia of Law & Economics (forthcoming 2000).
 William D. Nordhaus, Invention, Growth, and Welfare: A Theoretical Treatment of Technological Change (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1969).
 Among the lessons that Nordhaus derived from his analysis are that “commodities that have lower elasticity of demand have higher optimal [patent] lives” and that “patents for industries having more progressive (or easier) invention should have shorter lives.” Ibid., p. 79.
A wide array of essays in both the patent and copyright fields attempt to refine or apply the general approach developed by Nordhaus. See, for example, Pankaj Tandon, “Optimal Patents with Compulsory Licensing,” Journal of Political Economy 90 (1982): 470-86; Richard Gilbert and Carl Shapiro, “Optimal Patent Protection and Breadth,” Rand Journal of Economics 21 (1990): 106-12; Paul Klemperer, “How Broad Should the Scope of Patent Protection Be?,” Rand Journal of Economics 21 (1990): 113-30; Landes and Posner, “Economic Analysis of Copyright Law”; William Fisher, "Reconstructing the Fair Use Doctrine," at 1698-1744; S.J. Liebowitz, "Copying and Indirect Appropriability: Photocopying of Journals," Journal of Political Economy 93 (1985), 945; A. Samuel Oddi, “Beyond Obviousness: Invention Protection in the Twenty-First Century,” American University Law Review 38 (1989): 1097, at 1101-02, 1114-16; and Frederic M. Scherer, Industrial Market Structure and Economic Performance (2d ed., Chicago: Rand McNally, 1980), pp. 439-58. The history of this perspective is traced in Gillian K. Hadfield, "The Economics of Copyright: An Historical Perspective," Copyright Law Symposium (ASCAP) 38 (1992): 1-46.
 See Harold Demsetz, "Information and Efficiency: Another Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics 12 (1969): 1.
 See Paul Goldstein, Copyright's Highway (New York: Hill & Wang, 1994), pp. 178-79.
 See Wendy J. Gordon, “An Inquiry into the Merits of Copyright: The Challenges of Consistency, Consent, and Encouragement Theory,” Stanford Law Review 41 (1989): 1343, at 1439-49; Robert P. Merges, “Are You Making Fun of Me?: Notes on Market Failure and the Parody Defense in Copyright,” AIPLA Q.J. 21 (1993): 305, at 306-07; Netanel, “Copyright and Democratic Civil Society,” at 308-310. In this vein, Robert Merges has argued that lawmakers should not be quick to institute compulsory licensing systems. Private institutions such as collective rights management organizations are likely to be superior to any governmentally mandated regime—and will often spring up spontaneously if lawmakers refuse to intervene.
 The work of this group of economists is well summarized in Menell, “General Theories,” at 7-8. Among the leading works are: Yoram Barzel, “Optimal Timing of Innovations,” Rev. Econ. & Stat. 50 (1968): 348-55; Partha Dasgupta, “Patents, Priority and Imitation or, The Economics of Races and Waiting Games,” Economics Journal 98 (1988): 66, 74-78; Partha Dasgupta and Joseph Stiglitz, “Uncertainty, Industrial Structure and the Speed of R&D,” Bell Journal of Economics 11 (1980); 1, at 12-13; Drew Fundenberg, Richard Gilbert, Joseph Stiglitz, and Jean Tirole, “Preemption, Leapfrogging, and Competition in Patent Races,” European Economic Review 77 (1983): 176-83; Michael L. Katz & Carl Shapiro, “R & D Rivalry with Licensing or Imitation,” American Economic Review 77 (1987): 402; StevenA. Lippman & Kevin F. McCardle, “Dropout Behavior in R&D Races with Learning,” Rand Journal of Economics 18 (1987): 287; Glenn C. Loury, “Market Structure and Innovation,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 93 (1979): 395; Frederic M. Scherer, “Research and Development Resource Allocation Under Rivalry,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 81 (1967): 359, at 364-66; Pankaj Tandon, “Rivalry and the Excessive Allocation of Resources to Research,” Bell Journal of Economics 14 (1983): 152; Brian D. Wright, “The Resource Allocation Problem in R & D,” in The Economics of R & D Policy 41, 50 (GeorgeS. Tolley, James H. Hodge & James F. Oehmke eds., 1985).
 See Louis Kaplow, “The Patent-Antitrust Intersection: A Reappraisal,” Harvard Law Review 97 (1984): 1813-92; Edmund Kitch, “The Nature and Function of the Patent System,” Journal of Law and Economics 20 (1977): 265; idem, “Patents, Prospects, and Economic Surplus: A Reply,” Journal of Law and Economics 23 (1980): 205; Mark F. Grady & J.I. Alexander, "Patent Law and Rent Dissipation," Virginia Law Review 78 (1992): 305; Robert Merges & Richard Nelson, "On the Complex Economics of Patent Scope," Columbia Law Review 90 (1990): 839-916; Mark Lemley, “The Economics of Improvement in Intellectual Property Law,” Texas Law Review 75 (1997): 993-1084.
 See, for example, Joan Robinson, The Economics of Imperfect Competition (London: Macmillan, 1933); Arnold Plant, "The Economic Aspects of Copyright in Books," in Economica (n.s.) (1934): 30-51; Jack Hirshleifer, “The Private and Social Value of Information and the Reward to Inventive Activity,” American Economic Review 63 (1973): 31-51; Stephen Breyer, “The Uneasy Case for Copyright,” Harvard Law Review 87 (1970): 281-351.
 See, for example, Tyerman, "The Economic Rationale for Copyright Protection for Published Books: A Reply to Professor Breyer," UCLA Law Review 18 (1971): 1100.
 The relevant literature includes John Kay, “The Economics of Intellectual Property Rights,” International Review of Law & Economics 13 (1993): 337, 344-46; R.C. Levin, A.K. Klevorick, R.R. Nelson, and S.G. Winter, “Appropriating the Returns from Industrial Research and Development,” Brookings Papers Economic Activity (1987): 783-831; Edwin Mansfield, “Patents and Innovation: An Empirical Study,” Management Science 32 (1986): 173-81; George L. Priest, “What Economists Can Tell Lawyers About Intellectual Property,” Research in Law and Economics, Vol. 8 (aJohn Palmer, ed., 1986), 19, 21; Antoon A. Quaedvlieg, “The Economic Analysis of Intellectual Property Law,” in Willem F. Korthals Altes et al., eds., Information Law Towards the 21st Century (Deventer ; Boston : Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1992), pp. 379, 393; D. Schwartzmann, Innovation in the Pharmaceutical Industry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1976); C. Taylor and Z. Silberston, The Economic Impact of the Patent System (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1973).
 More specifically, Shavell and Ypersele contend that a regime in which, after an invention had been commercialized, the government used sales data and surveys to assess its social value and then periodically paid the inventor accordingly might be better, despite the familiar difficulties associated with governmental estimates of this sort, than a patent regime – and that a system in which each inventor had the option of either obtaining a traditional patent or collecting the government’s reward would certainly be better than a simple patent system. See “Rewards versus Intellectual Property Rights,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 6956 (February 1999).
 See, for example, Robert M. Hurt & Robert M. Schuchman, "The Economic Rationale of Copyright," American Economic Review 56 (1966): 425-26; Jessica Litman, "The Public Domain," Emory Law Journal 34 (1990): 997; Lloyd Weinreb, "Copyright for Functional Expression," at 1232-36; John Shepard Wiley, Jr., "Bonito Boats: Uninformed but Mandatory Innovation Policy," Supreme Court Review (1989), 283.
 See Glynn Lunney, Jr., "Reexamining Copyright's Incentives-Access Paradigm," Vanderbilt Law Review 49 (1996): 483.
 See Kitch, “The Nature and Function of the Patent System.” See also Suzanne Scotchmer, “Protecting Early Innovators: Should Second-Generation Products Be Patentable?,” Rand Journal of Economics 27 (1996): 322-31.
 Grady & Alexander, "Patent Law and Rent Dissipation.”
 First developed by Herbert A. Simon, the concept of “satisficing” has come to be associated with behavior under which a decision-maker ceases activity after meeting a minimum requirement – such as the laziness displayed by lions when prey is abundant. See David Ward et al., “The Role of Satisficing in Foraging Theory,” Oikos 63:2 (1992): 312-17.
 Merges & Nelson, "Complex Economics of Patent Scope.”
 For debate on these issues, see Donald G. McFetridge & Douglas A. Smith, "Patents, Prospects, and Economic Surplus: A Comment," Journal of Law and Economics 23 (1980): 197; A. Samuel Oddi, "Un-Unified Economic Theories of Patents—The Not-Quite-Holy Grail," Notre Dame Law Review 71 (1996): 267, at 283 (disagreeing with Merges and Nelson); Donald L. Martin, "Reducing Anticipated Rewards from Innovation Through Patents: Or Less is More," Virginia Law Review 78 (1992): 351, at 356; Robert P. Merges, "Rent Control in the Patent Districts: Observations on the Grady-Alexander Thesis," Virginia Law Review 78 (1992): 359, at 376-77.
 See Oddi, "Un-Unified Economic Theories of Patents.”
 Two Treatises of Government, sections 25-26.
 Ibid., sections 32, 35.
 Ibid., sections 27, 44.
 Ibid., section 34.
 Ibid., sections 38, 40-43.
 See Ryan, Property and Political Theory, at 22ff.
 See Seana Shiffrin, "Lockean Arguments for Private Intellectual Property," at ___, in this volume.
 See Tom Palmer, “Are Patents and Copyrights Morally Justified?,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 13 (1990): 817-65, at 832.
 Lawrence Becker, “Deserving to Own Intellectual Property,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 68 (1993): 609.
 The first of these options—though common in the discourse of copyright law—is vulnerable to criticism as naively Platonist. See, for example, Jessica Litman, "The Public Domain," Emory Law Journal 39 (1990): 965, 996; Jane Ginsburg, "Sabotaging and Reconstructing History," Bulletin of the Copyright Society 29 (1982): 647, at 658.
 Plainly these options are not mutually exclusive. For example, one intuitively plausible interpretation of the "the commons" would be a + b + c. Some of the options nest. For example, d is a subset of e, which is a subset of f, which is a subset of g.
 For discussions of alternative understandings of "the commons," see Yen, “Restoring the Natural Law”; Wendy Gordon, " A Property Right in Self-Expression: Equality and Individualism in the Natural Law of Intellectual Property," Yale Law Journal 102 (1993): 1533-1609; Hughes, “Philosophy of Intellectual Property”; Shiffrin, “Lockean Arguments.”
 Closely examined, real-property rights also lack the exclusivity Locke attributed to them, but the difficulty is more apparent in the case of property in ideas. See William Fisher, “Property and Contract on the Internet,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 73 (1998) 1203, at 1207.
 Seana Shiffrin points out, however, that some evidence that Locke understood property rights to be more temporally limited may be found in Two Treatises of Government, First Treatise, sections 88-89.
 For exploration of these issues, see Gordon, “Property Right in Self-Expression”; Edwin C. Hettinger, "Justifying Intellectual Property," Philosophy and Public Affairs 18 (1989), 31-52; Sterk, "Rhetoric and Reality"; Weinreb, "Copyright in Functional Expression," at 1218.
 See Hughes, “Philosophy of Intellectual Property”; Becker, “Deserving Intellectual Property.” Cf. James
W. Child, “The Moral Foundations of Intangible Property,” The Monist (1990); Wendy Gordon, “Property Right in Self-Expression.”
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 295; cf. Charles Fried, Right and Wrong (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press 1978), p. 1.
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 296.
 See ibid., at 300-01; cf. Abraham Lincoln, "Address to the Wisconsin State Fair, 1859," in Richard N. Current ed., The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), p. 134.
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 296-97; Carol Rose, Property and Persuasion (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994), pp. 146-47.
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 302-03; Margaret Jane Radin, Reinterpreting Property.
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 304-06; cf. George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! (1857) (C. Vann Woodward ed., Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1960) (defending the ownership of slaves on similar grounds).
 See Waldron, Right to Private Property, at 308-10; Thomas Hill Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 1967), lecture N.
 See Radin, Reinterpreting Property.
 See Hannah Arendt, On Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1965); Alexander, Commodity and Propriety, pp. 43-71.
 See Green, Lectures on Political Obligation, at section 220.
 Neil Netanel, "Copyright Alienability Restrictions and the Enhancement of Author Autonomy: A Normative Evaluation," Rutgers Law Review 24 (1993): 347; Weinreb, "Copyright for Functional Expression," at 1221. Good illustrations of both positions may be found in the current debate over the legitimacy of Gary Larson's effort to persuade his fans not to post copies of his cartoons on their websites. For a sample of the debate, see http://stud.unisg.ch/~rportmann/gary.html.
 See Cotter, "Pragmatism and the Droit Moral," at 8-9. For other treatments of the divergence of Kant and Hegel, see Palmer, “Are Patents Morally Justified?,” at 837-41; Sterk, "Rhetoric and Reality in Copyright Law," at 1243.
 Hughes, "Philosophy of Intellectual Property," at 338, 340.
 Hettinger, "Justifying Intellectual Property"; Paine, "Trade Secrets and the Justification of Intellectual Property," Philosophy and Public Affairs 20 (1991): 247, at 251-53.
 Hughes, "Philosophy of Intellectual Property," at 340-41; Madow, "Private Ownership of Public Image,” at 182-197 & n.338.
 See Margaret Jane Radin, “Property and Personhood,” Stanford Law Review 34 (1982): 957, at 970.
 See Fisher, "Property and Contract on the Internet.”
 On distributive justice, see, for example, Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, book V, ch. 2; Bruce Ackerman, Social Justice in the Liberal State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980); Charles Fried, “Distributive Justice,” Social Philosophy and Policy 1 (1983): 45; John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1971); Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1982).
 See, for example, Ronald Dworkin, "Liberalism," in A Matter of Principle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 181-204.
 For exploration of this argument, see Fisher, "Fair Use Doctrine," at 1762-66.
 Cf. Weinreb, Copyright for Functional Expression," at 1252-54 (suggesting that courts should cease trying to resolve complex copyright questions through efforts to ascertain and then apply underlying policies and should instead rely upon the traditional common-law interpretive techniques of "analogy and metaphor").
 J. Thomas McCarthy, The Rights of Publicity and Privacy (New York: C. Boardman, 1992), section 1.1[B], at 1-5. See also ibid., at section 2.1[B] ("The advocate of a Right of Publicity, when called upon to explain why such a right should exist at all, is not being illogical in simply challenging: 'Why not?'").
 The three scholars most influential in developing these arguments are Jane Gaines, Rosemary Coombe and Michael Madow. See Gaines, Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Coombe, "Objects of Property and Subjects of Politics"; and Madow, "Private Ownership of Public Image."
 Cardtoons, L.C. v. Major League Baseball Players Association, 95 F.3d 959, 972-73 (10th Cir. 1996).
 New York Magazine v. Metropolitan Transit Authority, 987 F. Supp. 254, 266 (1997).
 See, for example, Patricia M. Danzon, Pharmaceutical Price Regulation : National Policies versus Global Interests (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1997) (geographic price discrimination for drugs); ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg, 86 F.3d 1447 (7th Cir. 1996) (discrimination between commercial and noncommercial customers in sales of nationwide telephone directories); Michael Meurer, “Price Discrimination, Personal Use, and Piracy: Copyright Protection of Digital Works,” Buffalo Law Review 45 (1997): 845 (distribution of digital works on the Internet). For a useful taxonomy of types of price discrimination, see Scherer, Industrial Market Structure, pp. 315-34.
 15 U.S.C. § 13.
 The argument is developed at greater length in Fisher, "Property and Contract on the Internet," at 123440.
 These disadvantages of price discrimination are explored in Julie E. Cohen, “Copyright and the Jurisprudence of Self-Help,” Berkeley Technology Law Journal 13 (1998): 1089-1143; Wendy Gordon, “Intellectual Property as Price Discrimination,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 73 (1998): 1367-90; Kaplow, “Patent-Antitrust Intersection.”
 It was largely for this reason that the Legal Realists urged lawmakers (including judges, whom the Realists insisted were as much lawmakers as legislators) to be more explicit concerning the policy bases of their decisions. See, for example, Felix Cohen, “Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach,” Columbia Law Review 35 (1935): 809.
[618 F.2d 974] James C. Eastman, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff-appellant.9
Coudert Bros., New York City (Eugene L. Girden, New York City, of counsel), for defendant-appellee Universal City Studios, Inc.10
Peter A. Flynn, and Myron M. Cherry, Chicago, Ill. (Cherry, Flynn & Kanter, Chicago, Ill., Hervey M. Johnson, White Plains, N. Y.), and James J. McEnroe, New York City (Watson, Leavenworth, Kelton & Taggert, New York City), for defendant-appellee Michael M. Mooney.11
Before KAUFMAN, Chief Judge, TIMBERS, Circuit Judge, and WERKER, District Judge.[*]12
IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Chief Judge:13
A grant of copyright in a published work secures for its author a limited monopoly over the expression it contains. The copyright provides a financial incentive to those who would add to the corpus of existing knowledge by creating original works. Nevertheless, the protection afforded the copyright holder has never extended to history, be it documented fact or explanatory hypothesis. The rationale for this doctrine is that the cause of knowledge is best served when history is the common property of all, and each generation remains free to draw upon the discoveries and insights of the past. Accordingly, the scope of copyright in historical accounts is narrow indeed, embracing no more than the author's original expression of particular facts and theories already in the public domain. As the case before us illustrates, absent wholesale usurpation of another's expression, claims of copyright infringement where works of history are at issue are rarely successful.14
This litigation arises from three separate accounts of the triumphant introduction, last voyage, and tragic destruction of the Hindenburg, the colossal dirigible constructed in Germany during Hitler's reign. The zeppelin, the last and most sophisticated in a fleet of luxury airships, which punctually floated its wealthy passengers from the Third Reich to the United States, exploded into flames and disintegrated in 35 seconds as it hovered above the Lakehurst, New Jersey Naval Air Station at 7:25 p. m. on May 6, 1937. Thirty-six passengers and [618 F.2d 975] crew were killed but, fortunately, 52 persons survived. Official investigations conducted by both American and German authorities could ascertain no definitive cause of the disaster, but both suggested the plausibility of static electricity or St. Elmo's Fire, which could have ignited the highly explosive hydrogen that filled the airship. Throughout, the investigators refused to rule out the possibility of sabotage.16
The destruction of the Hindenburg marked the concluding chapter in the chronicle of airship passenger service, for after the tragedy at Lakehurst, the Nazi regime permanently grounded the Graf Zeppelin I and discontinued its plan to construct an even larger dirigible, the Graf Zeppelin II.17
The final pages of the airship's story marked the beginning of a series of journalistic, historical, and literary accounts devoted to the Hindenburg and its fate. Indeed, weeks of testimony by a plethora of witnesses before the official investigative panels provided fertile source material for would-be authors. Moreover, both the American and German Commissions issued official reports, detailing all that was then known of the tragedy. A number of newspaper and magazine articles had been written about the Hindenburg in 1936, its first year of trans-Atlantic service, and they, of course, multiplied many fold after the crash. In addition, two passengers Margaret Mather and Gertrud Adelt published separate and detailed accounts of the voyage, C. E. Rosendahl, commander of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station and a pioneer in airship travel himself, wrote a book titled What About the Airship?, in which he endorsed the theory that the Hindenburg was the victim of sabotage. In 1957, Nelson Gidding, who would return to the subject of the Hindenburg some 20 years later, wrote an unpublished "treatment" for a motion picture based on the deliberate destruction of the airship. In that year as well, John Toland published Ships in the Sky which, in its seventeenth chapter, chronicled the last flight of the Hindenburg. In 1962, Dale Titler released Wings of Mystery, in which he too devoted a chapter to the Hindenburg.18
Appellant A. A. Hoehling published Who Destroyed the Hindenburg ?, a full-length book based on his exhaustive research in 1962. Mr. Hoehling studied the investigative reports, consulted previously published articles and books, and conducted interviews with survivors of the crash as well as others who possessed information about the Hindenburg. His book is presented as a factual account, written in an objective, reportorial style.19
The first half recounts the final crossing of the Hindenburg, from Sunday, May 2, when it left Frankfurt, to Thursday, May 6, when it exploded at Lakehurst. Hoehling describes the airship, its role as an instrument of propaganda in Nazi Germany, its passengers and crew, the danger of hydrogen, and the ominous threats received by German officials, warning that the Hindenburg would be destroyed. The second portion, headed The Quest, sets forth the progress of the official investigations, followed by an account of Hoehling's own research. In the final chapter, spanning eleven pages, Hoehling suggests that all proffered explanations of the explosion, save deliberate destruction, are unconvincing. He concludes that the most likely saboteur is one Eric Spehl, a "rigger" on the Hindenburg crew who was killed at Lakehurst.20
According to Hoehling, Spehl had motive, expertise, and opportunity to plant an explosive device, constructed of dry-cell batteries and a flashbulb, in "Gas Cell 4," the location of the initial explosion. An amateur photographer with access to flashbulbs, Spehl could have destroyed the Hindenburg to please his ladyfriend, a suspected communist dedicated to exploding the myth of Nazi invincibility.21
Ten years later appellee Michael MacDonald Mooney published his book, The Hindenburg. [618 F.2d 976] Mooney's endeavor might be characterized as more literary than historical in its attempt to weave a number of symbolic themes through the actual events surrounding the tragedy. His dominant theme contrasts the natural beauty of the month of May, when the disaster occurred, with the cold, deliberate progress of "technology." The May theme is expressed not simply by the season, but also by the character of Spehl, portrayed as a sensitive artisan with needle and thread. The Hindenburg, in contrast, is the symbol of technology, as are its German creators and the Reich itself. The destruction is depicted as the ultimate triumph of nature over technology, as Spehl plants the bomb that ignites the hydrogen. Developing this theme from the outset, Mooney begins with an extended review of man's efforts to defy nature through flight, focusing on the evolution of the zeppelin. This story culminates in the construction of the Hindenburg, and the Nazis' claims of its indestructibility. Mooney then traces the fateful voyage, advising the reader almost immediately of Spehl's scheme. The book concludes with the airship's explosion.22
Mooney acknowledges, in this case, that he consulted Hoehling's book, and that he relied on it for some details. He asserts that he first discovered the "Spehl-as-saboteur" theory when he read Titler's Wings of Mystery. Indeed, Titler concludes that Spehl was the saboteur, for essentially the reasons stated by Hoehling. Mooney also claims to have studied the complete National Archives and New York Times files concerning the Hindenburg, as well as all previously published material. Moreover, he traveled to Germany, visited Spehl's birthplace, and conducted a number of interviews with survivors.23
After Mooney prepared an outline of his anticipated book, his publisher succeeded in negotiations to sell the motion picture rights to appellee Universal City Studios. Universal then commissioned a screen story by writers Levinson and Link, best known for their television series, Columbo, in which a somewhat disheveled, but wise detective unravels artfully conceived murder mysteries. In their screen story, Levinson and Link created a Columbo-like character who endeavored to identify the saboteur on board the Hindenburg. Director Robert Wise, however, was not satisfied with this version, and called upon Nelson Gidding to write a final screenplay. Gidding, it will be recalled, had engaged in preliminary work on a film about the Hindenburg almost twenty years earlier.24
The Gidding screenplay follows what is known in the motion picture industry as a "Grand Hotel" formula, developing a number of fictional characters and subplots involving them. This formula has become standard fare in so-called "disaster" movies, which have enjoyed a certain popularity in recent years. In the film, which was released in late 1975, a rigger named "Boerth," who has an anti-Nazi ladyfriend, plans to destroy the airship in an effort to embarrass the Reich. Nazi officials, vaguely aware of sabotage threats, station a Luftwaffe intelligence officer on the zeppelin, loosely resembling a Colonel Erdmann who was aboard the Hindenburg. This character is portrayed as a likable fellow who soon discovers that Boerth is the saboteur. Boerth, however, convinces him that the Hindenburg should be destroyed and the two join forces, planning the explosion for several hours after the landing at Lakehurst, when no people would be on board. In Gidding's version, the airship is delayed by a storm, frantic efforts to defuse the bomb fail, and the Hindenburg is destroyed. The film's subplots involve other possible suspects, including a fictional countess who has had her estate expropriated by the Reich, two fictional confidence men wanted [618 F.2d 977] by New York City police, and an advertising executive rushing to close a business deal in America.25
Upon learning of Universal's plans to release the film, Hoehling instituted this action against Universal for copyright infringement and common law unfair competition in the district court for the District of Columbia in October 1975. Judge Smith declined to issue an order restraining release of the film in December, and it was distributed throughout the nation.26
In January 1976, Hoehling sought to amend his complaint to include Mooney as a defendant. The district court, however, decided that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Mooney. In June 1976, Hoehling again attempted to amend his complaint, this time to add Mooney's publishers as defendants. Judge Smith denied this motion as well, but granted Hoehling's request to transfer the litigation to the Southern District of New York, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), where Mooney himself was successfully included as a party. Judge Metzner, with the assistance of Magistrate Sinclair, supervised extensive discovery through most of 1978. After the completion of discovery, both Mooney and Universal moved for summary judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, which was granted on August 1, 1979.27
It is undisputed that Hoehling has a valid copyright in his book. To prove infringement, however, he must demonstrate that defendants "copied" his work and that they "improperly appropriated" his "expression." See Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir. 1946). Ordinarily, wrongful appropriation is shown by proving a "substantial similarity" of copyrightable expression. See Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir. 1930), cert. denied, 282 U.S. 902, 51 S.Ct. 216, 75 L.Ed. 795 (1931). Because substantial similarity is customarily an extremely close question of fact, see Arnstein, supra, 154 F.2d at 468, summary judgment has traditionally been frowned upon in copyright litigation, id. at 474. Nevertheless, while Arnstein 's influence in other areas of the law has been diminished, see SEC v. Research Automation Corp., 585 F.2d 31 (2d Cir. 1978); 6 Moore's Federal Practice P 56.17(14) (2d ed. 1976), a series of copyright cases in the Southern District of New York have granted defendants summary judgment when all alleged similarity related to non -copyrightable elements of the plaintiff's work, see, e. g., Alexander v. Haley, 460 F.Supp. 40 (S.D.N.Y.1978); Musto v. Meyer, 434 F.Supp. 32 (S.D.N.Y.1977); Gardner v. Nizer, 391 F.Supp. 940 (S.D.N.Y.1975); Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., 390 F.Supp. 877 (S.D.N.Y.1975). These cases signal an important development in the law of copyright, permitting courts to put "a swift end to meritless litigation" and to avoid lengthy and costly trials. Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp., 613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir. 1980); accord, Donnelly v. Guion, 467 F.2d 290, 293 (2d Cir. 1972); American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Co. v. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc., 388 F.2d 272, 278 (2d Cir. 1967). Drawing on these cases, Judge Metzner assumed both copying and substantial similarity, but concluded that all similarities pertained to various categories of non-copyrightable material. Accordingly, he granted appellees' motion for summary judgment. We affirm the judgment of the district court.29
Hoehling's principal claim is that both Mooney and Universal copied the essential plot of his book i. e., Eric Spehl, influenced by his girlfriend, sabotaged the Hindenburg by placing a crude bomb in Gas Cell 4. In their briefs, and at oral argument, appellees have labored to convince us that their plots are not substantially similar to Hoehling's. While Hoehling's Spehl destroys the airship to please his communist girlfriend, Mooney's character is motivated by an aversion to the technological age. Universal's [618 F.2d 978] Boerth, on the other hand, is a fervent anti-fascist who enlists the support of a Luftwaffe colonel who, in turn, unsuccessfully attempts to defuse the bomb at the eleventh hour.31
Although this argument has potential merit when presented to a fact finder adjudicating the issue of substantial similarity, it is largely irrelevant to a motion for summary judgment where the issue of substantial similarity has been eliminated by the judge's affirmative assumption. Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Accord, Heyman v. Commerce & Industry Insurance Co., 524 F.2d 1317 (2d Cir. 1975). Perhaps recognizing this, appellees further argue that Hoehling's plot is an "idea," and ideas are not copyrightable as a matter of law. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 54 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835, 80 L.Ed. 1392 (1936).32
Hoehling, however, correctly rejoins that while ideas themselves are not subject to copyright, his "expression" of his idea is copyrightable. Id. at 54. He relies on Learned Hand's opinion in Sheldon, supra, at 50, holding that Letty Lynton infringed Dishonored Lady by copying its story of a woman who poisons her lover, and Augustus Hand's analysis in Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc., 111 F.2d 432 (2d Cir. 1940), concluding that the exploits of "Wonderman" infringed the copyright held by the creators of "Superman," the original indestructible man. Moreover, Hoehling asserts that, in both these cases, the line between "ideas" and "expression" is drawn, in the first instance, by the fact finder.33
Sheldon and Detective Comics, however, dealt with works of fiction, where the distinction between an idea and its expression is especially elusive. But, where, as here, the idea at issue is an interpretation of an historical event, our cases hold that such interpretations are not copyrightable as a matter of law. In Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc., 366 F.2d 303 (2d Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 1009, 87 S.Ct. 714, 17 L.Ed.2d 546 (1967), we held that the defendant's biography of Howard Hughes did not infringe an earlier biography of the reclusive alleged billionaire. Although the plots of the two works were necessarily similar, there could be no infringement because of the "public benefit in encouraging the development of historical and biographical works and their public distribution." Id. at 307; accord, Oxford Book Co. v. College Entrance Book Co., 98 F.2d 688 (2d Cir. 1938). To avoid a chilling effect on authors who contemplate tackling an historical issue or event, broad latitude must be granted to subsequent authors who make use of historical subject matter, including theories or plots. Learned Hand counseled in Myers v. Mail & Express Co., 36 C.O.Bull. 478, 479 (S.D.N.Y.1919), "(t)here cannot be any such thing as copyright in the order of presentation of the facts, nor, indeed, in their selection."34
In the instant case, the hypothesis that Eric Spehl destroyed the Hindenburg is based entirely on the interpretation of historical facts, including Spehl's life, his girlfriend's anti-Nazi connections, the explosion's origin in Gas Cell 4, Spehl's duty station, discovery of a dry-cell battery [618 F.2d 979] among the wreckage, and rumors about Spehl's involvement dating from a 1938 Gestapo investigation. Such an historical interpretation, whether or not it originated with Mr. Hoehling, is not protected by his copyright and can be freely used by subsequent authors.35
The same reasoning governs Hoehling's claim that a number of specific facts, ascertained through his personal research, were copied by appellees. The cases in this circuit, however, make clear that factual information is in the public domain. See, e. g., Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 309; Oxford Book Co., supra, 98 F.2d at 691. Each appellee had the right to "avail himself of the facts contained" in Hoehling's book and to "use such information, whether correct or incorrect, in his own literary work." Greenbie v. Noble, 151 F.Supp. 45, 67 (S.D.N.Y.1957). Accordingly, there is little consolation in relying on cases in other circuits holding that the fruits of original research are copyrightable. See, e. g., Toksvig v. Bruce Publications Corp., 181 F.2d 664, 667 (7th Cir. 1950); Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 460 F.Supp. 984 (S.D.Fla.1978). Indeed, this circuit has clearly repudiated Toksvig and its progeny. In Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 310, we refused to "subscribe to the view that an author is absolutely precluded from saving time and effort by referring to and relying upon prior published material. . . . It is just such wasted effort that the proscription against the copyright of ideas and facts . . . . are designed to prevent." Accord, 1 Nimmer on Copyright § 2.11 (1979).37
The remainder of Hoehling's claimed similarities relate to random duplications of phrases and sequences of events. For example, all three works contain a scene in a German beer hall, in which the airship's crew engages in revelry prior to the voyage. Other claimed similarities concern common German greetings of the period, such as "Heil Hitler," or songs, such as the German National anthem. These elements, however, are merely scenes a faire, that is, "incidents, characters or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least standard, in the treatment of a given topic." Alexander, supra, 460 F.Supp. at 45; accord, Bevan v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 329 F.Supp. 601, 607 (S.D.N.Y.1971). Because it is virtually impossible to write about a particular historical era or fictional theme without employing certain "stock" or standard literary devices, we have held that scenes a faire are not copyrightable as a matter of law. See Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 980, 97 S.Ct. 492, 50 L.Ed.2d 588 (1976).39
All of Hoehling's allegations of copying, therefore, encompass material that is non-copyrightable as a matter of law, rendering summary judgment entirely appropriate. We are aware, however, that in distinguishing between themes, facts, and scenes a faire on the one hand, and copyrightable expression on the other, courts may lose sight of the forest for the trees. By factoring out similarities based on non-copyrightable elements, a court runs the [618 F.2d 980] risk of overlooking wholesale usurpation of a prior author's expression. A verbatim reproduction of another work, of course, even in the realm of nonfiction, is actionable as copyright infringement. See Wainwright Securities, Inc. v. Wall Street Transcript Corp., 558 F.2d 91 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1014, 98 S.Ct. 730 (1978). Thus, in granting or reviewing a grant of summary judgment for defendants, courts should assure themselves that the works before them are not virtually identical. In this case, it is clear that all three authors relate the story of the Hindenburg differently.41
In works devoted to historical subjects, it is our view that a second author may make significant use of prior work, so long as he does not bodily appropriate the expression of another. Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 310. This principle is justified by the fundamental policy undergirding the copyright laws the encouragement of contributions to recorded knowledge. The "financial reward guaranteed to the copyright holder is but an incident of this general objective, rather than an end in itself." Berlin v. E. C. Publications, Inc., 329 F.2d 541, 543-44 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 822, 85 S.Ct. 46, 13 L.Ed.2d 33 (1964). Knowledge is expanded as well by granting new authors of historical works a relatively free hand to build upon the work of their predecessors.42
Finally, we affirm Judge Metzner's rejection of Hoehling's claims based on the common law of "unfair competition." Where, as here, historical facts, themes, and research have been deliberately exempted from the scope of copyright protection to vindicate the overriding goal of encouraging contributions to recorded knowledge, the states are pre-empted from removing such material from the public domain. See, e. g., Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 83 S.Ct. 1868, 10 L.Ed.2d 1050 (1964); Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). "To forbid copying" in this case, "would interfere with the federal policy . . . of allowing free access to copy whatever the federal patent and copyright laws leave in the public domain." Id. at 237, 84 S.Ct. at 782.44
The judgment of the district court is affirmed.45
[*] Of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation.47
 Titler's account was published after the release of appellant's book. In an affidavit in this litigation, Titler states that he copied Hoehling's theory of sabotage. Hoehling, however, has never instituted a copyright action against Titler.48
 Mooney, his publishers, and Universal entered into an agreement under which (1) Universal acquired the film rights to Mooney's book, (2) Universal agreed to promote sales of the book, and (3) Mooney would receive a percentage fee, tied to sales of his book. Hoehling claims that because of this arrangement, Universal is vicariously liable if Mooney's book, but not the motion picture, is held to infringe his copyright. In view of our disposition of the appeal, however, we need not address this issue.49
 At the same time, Judge Smith denied Universal's motion for summary judgment, concluding it was inappropriate prior to the completion of requested discovery.50
 In Sheldon, both works were loosely based on an actual murder committed by a young Scottish girl. Judge Hand, however, clearly dealt only with the fictional plots conceived by the respective authors. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 54 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835, 80 L.Ed. 1392 (1936).51
 This circuit has permitted extensive reliance on prior works of history. See, e. g., Gardner v. Nizer, 391 F.Supp. 940 (S.D.N.Y.1975) (the story of the Rosenberg trial not copyrightable); Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., 390 F.Supp. 877 (S.D.N.Y.1975) ("Bugsy" Siegel's life story not copyrightable); Greenbie v. Noble, 151 F.Supp. 45 (S.D.N.Y.1957) (the life of Anna Carroll, a member of Lincoln's cabinet, not copyrightable). The commentators are in accord with this view. See, e. g. 1 Nimmer on Copyright § 2.11(A) (1979); Chafee, Reflections on the Law of Copyright: I, 45 Colum.L.Rev. 503, 511 (1945).52
 In detailed comparisons of his book with Mooney's work and Universal's motion picture, Hoehling isolates 266 and 75 alleged instances of copying, respectively. Judge Metzner correctly pointed out that many of these allegations are patently frivolous. The vast majority of the remainder deals with alleged copying of historical facts. It would serve no purpose to review Hoehling's specific allegations in detail in this opinion. The following ten examples, however, are illustrative: (1) Eric Spehl's age and birthplace; (2) Crew members had smuggled monkeys on board the Graf Zeppelin; (3) Germany's ambassador to the United States dismissed threats of sabotage; (4) A warning letter had been received from a Mrs. Rauch; (5) The Hindenburg's captain was constructing a new home in Zeppelinheim; (6) Eric Spehl was a photographer; (7) The airship flew over Boston; (8) The Hindenburg was "tail heavy" before landing; (9) A member of the ground crew had etched his name in the zeppelin's hull; and (10) The navigator set the Hindenburg's course by reference to various North Atlantic islands.53
 We note that publication of Mooney's book and release of the motion picture revived long dormant interest in the Hindenburg. As a result, Hoehling's book, which had been out of print for some time, was actually re-released after the film was featured in theaters across the country.
Discussion: Software and database
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Grand Chamber)
3 July 2012 (*)
(Legal protection of computer programs — Marketing of used licences for computer programs downloaded from the internet — Directive 2009/24/EC — Articles 4(2) and 5(1) — Exhaustion of the distribution right — Concept of lawful acquirer)
In Case C‑128/11,
REFERENCE for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the Bundesgerichtshof (Germany), made by decision of 3 February 2011, received at the Court on 14 March 2011, in the proceedings
Oracle International Corp.,
THE COURT (Grand Chamber),
composed of V. Skouris, President, A. Tizzano, J.N. Cunha Rodrigues, K. Lenaerts (Rapporteur), J.‑C. Bonichot and A. Prechal, Presidents of Chambers, K. Schiemann, E. Juhász, A. Borg Barthet, D. Šváby and M. Berger, Judges,
Advocate General: Y. Bot,
Registrar: K. Malacek, Administrator,
having regard to the written procedure and further to the hearing on 6 March 2012,
after considering the observations submitted on behalf of:
– UsedSoft GmbH, by B. Ackermann and A. Meisterernst, Rechtsanwälte,
– Oracle International Corp., by T. Heydn and U. Hornung, Rechtsanwälte,
– Ireland, by D. O’Hagan, acting as Agent,
– the Spanish Government, by N. Díaz Abad, acting as Agent,
– the French Government, by J. Gstalter, acting as Agent,
– the Italian Government, by G. Palmieri, acting as Agent, and S. Fiorentino, avvocato dello Stato,
– the European Commission, by J. Samnadda and F.W. Bulst, acting as Agents,
after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 24 April 2012,
gives the following
1 This reference for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 4(2) and 5(1) of Directive 2009/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs (OJ 2009 L 111, p. 16).
2 The reference has been made in proceedings between UsedSoft GmbH (‘UsedSoft’) and Oracle International Corp. (‘Oracle’) concerning the marketing by UsedSoft of used licences for Oracle computer programs.
3 The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) adopted the WIPO Copyright Treaty (‘the Copyright Treaty’) in Geneva on 20 December 1996. That treaty was approved on behalf of the European Community by Council Decision 2000/278/EC of 16 March 2000 (OJ 2000 L 89, p. 6).
‘Computer programs are protected as literary works within the meaning of Article 2 of the Berne Convention. Such protection applies to computer programs, whatever may be the mode or form of their expression.’
‘1. Authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorising the making available to the public of the original and copies of their works through sale or other transfer of ownership.
2. Nothing in this Treaty shall affect the freedom of Contracting Parties to determine the conditions, if any, under which the exhaustion of the right in paragraph 1 applies after the first sale or other transfer of ownership of the original or a copy of the work with the authorisation of the author.’
‘… authors of literary and artistic works shall enjoy the exclusive right of authorising any communication to the public of their works, by wire or wireless means, including the making available to the public of their works in such a way that members of the public may access these works from a place and at a time individually chosen by them’.
‘As used in these Articles, the expressions “copies” and “original and copies” being subject to the right of distribution and the right of rental under the said Articles, refer exclusively to fixed copies that can be put into circulation as tangible objects.’
European Union law
8 Recitals 28 and 29 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (OJ 2001 L 167, p. 10) state:
‘(28) Copyright protection under this Directive includes the exclusive right to control distribution of the work incorporated in a tangible article. The first sale in the Community of the original of a work or copies thereof by the rightholder or with his consent exhausts the right to control resale of that object in the Community. This right should not be exhausted in respect of the original or of copies thereof sold by the rightholder or with his consent outside the Community. Rental and lending rights for authors have been established in Directive 92/100/EEC. The distribution right provided for in this Directive is without prejudice to the provisions relating to the rental and lending rights contained in Chapter I of that Directive.
(29) The question of exhaustion does not arise in the case of services and on-line services in particular. This also applies with regard to a material copy of a work or other subject-matter made by a user of such a service with the consent of the rightholder. Therefore, the same applies to rental and lending of the original and copies of works or other subject-matter which are services by nature. Unlike CD‑ROM or CD-I, where the intellectual property is incorporated in a material medium, namely an item of goods, every on-line service is in fact an act which should be subject to authorisation where the copyright or related right so provides.’
9 In accordance with Article 1(2)(a) of Directive 2001/29, the directive ‘shall leave intact and shall in no way affect existing Community provisions relating to … the legal protection of computer programs’.
‘1. Member States shall provide authors with the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication to the public of their works, by wire or wireless means, including the making available to the public of their works in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.
3. The rights referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2 shall not be exhausted by any act of communication to the public or making available to the public as set out in this Article.’
‘1. Member States shall provide for authors, in respect of the original of their works or of copies thereof, the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any form of distribution to the public by sale or otherwise.
2. The distribution right shall not be exhausted within the Community in respect of the original or copies of the work, except where the first sale or other transfer of ownership in the Community of that object is made by the rightholder or with his consent.’
12 According to recital 1 in the preamble to Directive 2009/24, that directive codifies Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs (OJ 1991 L 122, p. 42).
13 According to recital 7 in that preamble, ‘[f]or the purpose of this Directive, the term “computer program” shall include programs in any form, including those which are incorporated into hardware.’
14 According to recital 13 in that preamble, ‘the acts of loading and running necessary for the use of a copy of a program which has been lawfully acquired, and the act of correction of its errors, may not be prohibited by contract’.
15 Article 1(1) of Directive 2009/24 provides that ‘Member States shall protect computer programs, by copyright, as literary works within the meaning of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works’.
‘1. Subject to the provisions of Articles 5 and 6, the exclusive rights of the rightholder within the meaning of Article 2 shall include the right to do or to authorise:
(a) the permanent or temporary reproduction of a computer program by any means and in any form, in part or in whole; in so far as loading, displaying, running, transmission or storage of the computer program necessitate such reproduction, such acts shall be subject to authorisation by the rightholder;
(b) the translation, adaptation, arrangement and any other alteration of a computer program and the reproduction of the results thereof, without prejudice to the rights of the person who alters the program;
(c) any form of distribution to the public, including the rental, of the original computer program or of copies thereof.
2. The first sale in the Community of a copy of a program by the rightholder or with his consent shall exhaust the distribution right within the Community of that copy, with the exception of the right to control further rental of the program or a copy thereof.’
‘In the absence of specific contractual provisions, the acts referred to in points (a) and (b) of Article 4(1) shall not require authorisation by the rightholder where they are necessary for the use of the computer program by the lawful acquirer in accordance with its intended purpose, including for error correction.’
19 Paragraphs 69c and 69d of the Law on copyright and related rights (Gesetz über Urheberrecht und verwandte Schutzrechte (Urheberrechtsgesetz)) of 9 September 1965, as amended (‘the UrhG’), transpose Articles 4 and 5 of Directive 2009/24 into national law.
Facts of the main proceedings and questions referred for a preliminary ruling
20 Oracle develops and markets computer software. It is the proprietor of the exclusive user rights under copyright law in those programs. It is also the proprietor of the German and Community word marks Oracle, which are registered inter alia for computer software.
21 Oracle distributes the software at issue in the main proceedings, namely databank software, in 85% of cases by downloading from the internet. The customer downloads a copy of the software directly to his computer from Oracle’s website. The software is what is known as ‘client-server-software’. The user right for such a program, which is granted by a licence agreement, includes the right to store a copy of the program permanently on a server and to allow a certain number of users to access it by downloading it to the main memory of their work-station computers. On the basis of a maintenance agreement, updated versions of the software (‘updates’) and programs for correcting faults (‘patches’) can be downloaded from Oracle’s website. At the customer’s request, the programs are also supplied on CD‑ROM or DVD.
‘With the payment for services you receive, exclusively for your internal business purposes, for an unlimited period a non-exclusive non-transferable user right free of charge for everything that Oracle develops and makes available to you on the basis of this agreement.’
24 UsedSoft markets used software licences, including user licences for the Oracle computer programs at issue in the main proceedings. For that purpose UsedSoft acquires from customers of Oracle such user licences, or parts of them, where the original licences relate to a greater number of users than required by the first acquirer.
25 In October 2005 UsedSoft promoted an ‘Oracle Special Offer’ in which it offered for sale ‘already used’ licences for the Oracle programs at issue in the main proceedings. In doing so it pointed out that the licences were all ‘current’ in the sense that the maintenance agreement concluded between the original licence holder and Oracle was still in force, and that the lawfulness of the original sale was confirmed by a notarial certificate.
26 Customers of UsedSoft who are not yet in possession of the Oracle software in question download a copy of the program directly from Oracle’s website, after acquiring such a used licence. Customers who already have that software and then purchase further licences for additional users are induced by UsedSoft to copy the program to the work stations of those users.
27 Oracle brought proceedings in the Landgericht München I (Regional Court, Munich I) seeking an order that UsedSoft cease the practices described in paragraphs 24 to 26 above. That court allowed Oracle’s application. UsedSoft’s appeal against the decision was dismissed. UsedSoft thereupon appealed on a point of law to the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice).
28 According to the Bundesgerichtshof, the actions of UsedSoft and its customers infringe Oracle’s exclusive right of permanent or temporary reproduction of computer programs within the meaning of Article 4(1)(a) of Directive 2009/24. UsedSoft’s customers cannot, in that court’s view, rely on a right validly transferred to them by Oracle to reproduce the computer programs. Oracle’s licence agreements state that the right to use the programs is ‘non-transferable’. Oracle’s customers are not therefore entitled to transfer to third parties the right of reproduction of those programs.
29 The outcome of the dispute depends, according to that court, on whether the customers of UsedSoft can successfully rely on Paragraph 69d(1) of the UrhG, which transposes Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 into German law.
30 The question arises, first, whether a person who, like UsedSoft’s customers, does not hold a user right in the computer program granted by the rightholder, but relies on the exhaustion of the right to distribute a copy of the computer program, is a ‘lawful acquirer’ of that copy within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24. The referring court considers that that is the case. It explains that the marketability of a copy of the computer program which arises from the exhaustion of the distribution right would be largely meaningless if the acquirer of such a copy did not have the right to reproduce the program. The use of a computer program, unlike the use of other works protected by copyright, generally requires its reproduction. Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 thus serves to safeguard the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24.
31 Next, the referring court considers whether, in a case such as that in the main proceedings, the right to distribute a copy of a computer program is exhausted under the second sentence of Paragraph 69c(3) of the UrhG, which transposes Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24.
32 There are several possible interpretations. First, Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 could be applicable if the rightholder allows a customer, after the conclusion of a licence agreement, to make a copy of a computer program by downloading that program from the internet and storing it on a computer. That provision attaches the legal consequence of exhaustion of the distribution right to the first sale of a copy of the program and does not necessarily presuppose the putting into circulation of a physical copy of the program. Secondly, Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 could be applicable by analogy in the case of the sale of a computer program by means of on-line transmission. According to the supporters of that view, there is an unintended lacuna in the law (‘planwidrige Regelungslücke’) because the authors of the directive did not regulate or contemplate on-line transmission of computer programs. Thirdly, Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 is inapplicable because the exhaustion of the distribution right under that provision always presupposes the putting into circulation of a physical copy of the program by the rightholder or with his consent. The authors of the directive deliberately refrained from extending the rule on exhaustion to the on-line transmission of computer programs.
33 Finally, the referring court raises the question whether a person who has acquired a used licence may, for making a copy of the program (as UsedSoft’s customers do in the dispute in the main proceedings by downloading a copy of Oracle’s program onto a computer from Oracle’s website or uploading it to the main memory of other work stations), rely on exhaustion of the right of distribution of the copy of the program made by the first acquirer, with the consent of the rightholder, by downloading it from the internet, if the first acquirer has deleted his copy or no longer uses it. The referring court considers that the application by analogy of Articles 5(1) and 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 can be ruled out. Exhaustion of the distribution right is intended solely to guarantee the marketability of a copy of a program which is incorporated in a particular data carrier and sold by the rightholder or with his consent. The effect of exhaustion should not therefore be extended to the non-physical data transmitted on-line.
‘1. Is the person who can rely on exhaustion of the right to distribute a copy of a computer program a “lawful acquirer” within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24?
2. If the reply to the first question is in the affirmative: is the right to distribute a copy of a computer program exhausted in accordance with the first half-sentence of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 when the acquirer has made the copy with the rightholder’s consent by downloading the program from the internet onto a data carrier?
3. If the reply to the second question is also in the affirmative: can a person who has acquired a “used” software licence for generating a program copy as “lawful acquirer” under Article 5(1) and the first half-sentence of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 also rely on exhaustion of the right to distribute the copy of the computer program made by the first acquirer with the rightholder’s consent by downloading the program from the internet onto a data carrier if the first acquirer has erased his program copy or no longer uses it?’
Consideration of the questions referred
35 By its second question, which should be addressed first, the referring court essentially seeks to know whether and under what conditions the downloading from the internet of a copy of a computer program, authorised by the copyright holder, can give rise to exhaustion of the right of distribution of that copy in the European Union within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24.
36 It should be recalled that under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 the first sale in the European Union of a copy of a computer program by the rightholder or with his consent exhausts the distribution right within the European Union of that copy.
37 According to the order for reference, the copyright holder itself, in this case Oracle, makes available to its customers in the European Union who wish to use its computer program a copy of that program which can be downloaded from its website.
38 To determine whether, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, the copyright holder’s distribution right is exhausted, it must be ascertained, first, whether the contractual relationship between the rightholder and its customer, within which the downloading of a copy of the program in question has taken place, may be regarded as a ‘first sale … of a copy of a program’ within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24.
39 According to settled case‑law, the need for a uniform application of European Union law and the principle of equality require that the terms of a provision of European Union law which makes no express reference to the law of the Member States for the purpose of determining its meaning and scope must normally be given an independent and uniform interpretation throughout the European Union (see, inter alia, Case C‑5/08 Infopaq International  ECR I‑6569, paragraph 27; Case C‑34/10 Brüstle  ECR I‑9821, paragraph 25; and judgment of 26 April 2012 in Case C‑510/10 DR and TV2 Danmark, paragraph 33).
40 The wording of Directive 2009/24 does not make any reference to national laws as regards the meaning to be given to the term ‘sale’ in Article 4(2) of the directive. It follows that that term must be regarded, for the purposes of applying the directive, as designating an autonomous concept of European Union law, which must be interpreted in a uniform manner throughout the territory of the European Union (see, to that effect, DR and TV2 Danmark, paragraph 34).
41 That conclusion is supported by the subject-matter and purpose of Directive 2009/24. Recitals 4 and 5 in the preamble to that directive, which is based on Article 95 EC, to which Article 114 TFEU corresponds, state that its objective is to remove differences between the laws of the Member States which have adverse effects on the functioning of the internal market and concern computer programs. A uniform interpretation of the term ‘sale’ is necessary in order to avoid the protection offered to copyright holders by that directive varying according to the national law applicable.
42 According to a commonly accepted definition, a ‘sale’ is an agreement by which a person, in return for payment, transfers to another person his rights of ownership in an item of tangible or intangible property belonging to him. It follows that the commercial transaction giving rise, in accordance with Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, to exhaustion of the right of distribution of a copy of a computer program must involve a transfer of the right of ownership in that copy.
43 Oracle submits that it does not sell copies of its computer programs at issue in the main proceedings. It says that it makes available to its customers, free of charge, on its website a copy of the program concerned, and they can download that copy. The copy thus downloaded may not, however, be used by the customers unless they have concluded a user licence agreement with Oracle. Such a licence gives Oracle’s customers a non-exclusive and non-transferable user right for an unlimited period for that program. Oracle submits that neither the making available of a copy free of charge nor the conclusion of the user licence agreement involves a transfer of the right of ownership of that copy.
44 In this respect, it must be observed that the downloading of a copy of a computer program and the conclusion of a user licence agreement for that copy form an indivisible whole. Downloading a copy of a computer program is pointless if the copy cannot be used by its possessor. Those two operations must therefore be examined as a whole for the purposes of their legal classification (see, by analogy, Joined Cases C‑145/08 and C‑149/08 Club Hotel Loutraki and Others  ECR I‑4165, paragraphs 48 and 49 and the case‑law cited).
45 As regards the question whether, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, the commercial transactions concerned involve a transfer of the right of ownership of the copy of the computer program, it must be stated that, according to the order for reference, a customer of Oracle who downloads the copy of the program and concludes with that company a user licence agreement relating to that copy receives, in return for payment of a fee, a right to use that copy for an unlimited period. The making available by Oracle of a copy of its computer program and the conclusion of a user licence agreement for that copy are thus intended to make the copy usable by the customer, permanently, in return for payment of a fee designed to enable the copyright holder to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of the copy of the work of which it is the proprietor.
47 It makes no difference, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, whether the copy of the computer program was made available to the customer by the rightholder concerned by means of a download from the rightholder’s website or by means of a material medium such as a CD‑ROM or DVD. Even if, in the latter case too, the rightholder formally separates the customer’s right to use the copy of the program supplied from the operation of transferring the copy of the program to the customer on a material medium, the operation of downloading from that medium a copy of the computer program and that of concluding a licence agreement remain inseparable from the point of view of the acquirer, for the reasons set out in paragraph 44 above. Since an acquirer who downloads a copy of the program concerned by means of a material medium such as a CD‑ROM or DVD and concludes a licence agreement for that copy receives the right to use the copy for an unlimited period in return for payment of a fee, it must be considered that those two operations likewise involve, in the case of the making available of a copy of the computer program concerned by means of a material medium such as a CD‑ROM or DVD, the transfer of the right of ownership of that copy.
48 Consequently, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, the transfer by the copyright holder to a customer of a copy of a computer program, accompanied by the conclusion between the same parties of a user licence agreement, constitutes a ‘first sale … of a copy of a program’ within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24.
49 As the Advocate General observes in point 59 of his Opinion, if the term ‘sale’ within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 were not given a broad interpretation as encompassing all forms of product marketing characterised by the grant of a right to use a copy of a computer program, for an unlimited period, in return for payment of a fee designed to enable the copyright holder to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of the copy of the work of which he is the proprietor, the effectiveness of that provision would be undermined, since suppliers would merely have to call the contract a ‘licence’ rather than a ‘sale’ in order to circumvent the rule of exhaustion and divest it of all scope.
50 Secondly, the argument put forward by Oracle and the European Commission that the making available of a copy of a computer program on the copyright holder’s website constitutes a ‘making available to the public’ within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29, which, in accordance with Article 3(3) of that directive, cannot give rise to exhaustion of the right of distribution of the copy, cannot be accepted.
51 It is apparent from Article 1(2)(a) of Directive 2001/29 that the directive ‘leave[s] intact and … in no way affect[s] existing … provisions [of European Union law] relating to … the legal protection of computer programs’ conferred by Directive 91/250, which was subsequently codified by Directive 2009/24. The provisions of Directive 2009/24, in particular Article 4(2), thus constitute a lex specialis in relation to the provisions of Directive 2001/29, so that even if the contractual relationship at issue in the main proceedings or an aspect of it might also be covered by the concept of ‘communication to the public’ within the meaning of Article 3(1) of the latter directive, the ‘first sale … of a copy of a program’ within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 would still give rise, in accordance with that provision, to exhaustion of the right of distribution of that copy.
52 Moreover, as stated in paragraph 46 above, in a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, the copyright holder transfers the right of ownership of the copy of the computer program to his customer. As the Advocate General observes in point 73 of his Opinion, it follows from Article 6(1) of the Copyright Treaty, in the light of which Articles 3 and 4 of Directive 2001/29 must, so far as possible, be interpreted (see, to that effect, Case C‑456/06 Peek & Cloppenburg  ECR I‑2731, paragraph 30), that the existence of a transfer of ownership changes an ‘act of communication to the public’ provided for in Article 3 of that directive into an act of distribution referred to in Article 4 of the directive which, if the conditions in Article 4(2) of the directive are satisfied, can, like a ‘first sale … of a copy of a program’ referred to in Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, give rise to exhaustion of the distribution right.
53 Thirdly, it must also be examined whether, as argued by Oracle, the governments which have submitted observations to the Court, and the Commission, the exhaustion of the distribution right referred to in Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 relates only to tangible property and not to intangible copies of computer programs downloaded from the internet. They refer in this respect to the wording of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, recitals 28 and 29 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29, Article 4 of Directive 2001/29 read in conjunction with Article 8 of the Copyright Treaty, and the agreed statement concerning Articles 6 and 7 of the Copyright Treaty, whose transposition is one of the aims of Directive 2001/29.
54 Furthermore, according to the Commission, recital 29 in the preamble to Directive 2001/29 confirms that ‘[t]he question of exhaustion does not arise in the case of services and on-line services in particular’.
55 On this point, it must be stated, first, that it does not appear from Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 that the exhaustion of the right of distribution of copies of computer programs mentioned in that provision is limited to copies of programmes on a material medium such as a CD‑ROM or DVD. On the contrary, that provision, by referring without further specification to the ‘sale … of a copy of a program’, makes no distinction according to the tangible or intangible form of the copy in question.
57 Article 1(2) of Directive 2009/24 states that ‘[p]rotection in accordance with this Directive shall apply to the expression in any form of a computer program’. Recital 7 in the preamble to that directive specifies that the ‘computer programs’ it aims to protect ‘include programs in any form, including those which are incorporated into hardware’.
58 Those provisions thus make abundantly clear the intention of the European Union legislature to assimilate, for the purposes of the protection laid down by Directive 2009/24, tangible and intangible copies of computer programs.
59 In those circumstances, it must be considered that the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 concerns both tangible and intangible copies of a computer program, and hence also copies of programs which, on the occasion of their first sale, have been downloaded from the internet onto the first acquirer’s computer.
60 It is true that the concepts used in Directives 2001/29 and 2009/24 must in principle have the same meaning (see Joined Cases C‑403/08 and C‑429/08 Football Association Premier League and Others  ECR I‑9083, paragraphs 187 and 188). However, even supposing that Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29, interpreted in the light of recitals 28 and 29 in its preamble and in the light of the Copyright Treaty, which Directive 2001/29 aims to implement (judgment of 9 February 2012 in Case C‑277/10 Luksan, paragraph 59), indicated that, for the works covered by that directive, the exhaustion of the distribution right concerned only tangible objects, that would not be capable of affecting the interpretation of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, having regard to the different intention expressed by the European Union legislature in the specific context of that directive.
61 It should be added that, from an economic point of view, the sale of a computer program on CD‑ROM or DVD and the sale of a program by downloading from the internet are similar. The on-line transmission method is the functional equivalent of the supply of a material medium. Interpreting Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 in the light of the principle of equal treatment confirms that the exhaustion of the distribution right under that provision takes effect after the first sale in the European Union of a copy of a computer program by the copyright holder or with his consent, regardless of whether the sale relates to a tangible or an intangible copy of the program.
62 As to the Commission’s argument that European Union law does not provide for the exhaustion of the distribution right in the case of services, it must be recalled that the objective of the principle of the exhaustion of the right of distribution of works protected by copyright is, in order to avoid partitioning of markets, to limit restrictions of the distribution of those works to what is necessary to safeguard the specific subject-matter of the intellectual property concerned (see, to that effect, Case C‑200/96 Metronome Musik  ECR I‑1953, paragraph 14; Case C‑61/97 FDV  ECR I‑5171, paragraph 13; and Football Association Premier League and Others, paragraph 106).
63 To limit the application, in circumstances such as those at issue in the main proceedings, of the principle of the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 solely to copies of computer programs that are sold on a material medium would allow the copyright holder to control the resale of copies downloaded from the internet and to demand further remuneration on the occasion of each new sale, even though the first sale of the copy had already enabled the rightholder to obtain an appropriate remuneration. Such a restriction of the resale of copies of computer programs downloaded from the internet would go beyond what is necessary to safeguard the specific subject-matter of the intellectual property concerned (see, to that effect, Football Association Premier League and Others, paragraphs 105 and 106).
64 Fourthly, it must also be examined whether, as Oracle claims, the maintenance agreement concluded by the first acquirer prevents in any event the exhaustion of the right provided for in Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, since the copy of the computer program which the first acquirer may transfer to a second acquirer no longer corresponds to the copy he downloaded but to a new copy of the program.
65 According to the order for reference, the used licences offered by UsedSoft are ‘current’, in that the sale of the copy of the program by Oracle to its customer was accompanied by the conclusion of a maintenance agreement for that copy.
66 It must be observed that the exhaustion of the right of distribution of a copy of a computer program under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 only concerns copies which have been the subject of a first sale in the European Union by the copyright holder or with his consent. It does not relate to contracts for services, such as maintenance agreements, which are separable from such a sale and were concluded, possibly for an unlimited period, on the occasion of the sale.
67 None the less, the conclusion of a maintenance agreement, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, on the occasion of the sale of an intangible copy of a computer program has the effect that the copy originally purchased is patched and updated. Even if the maintenance agreement is for a limited period, the functionalities corrected, altered or added on the basis of such an agreement form an integral part of the copy originally downloaded and can be used by the acquirer of the copy for an unlimited period, even in the event that the acquirer subsequently decides not to renew the maintenance agreement.
68 In such circumstances, the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 extends to the copy of the computer program sold as corrected and updated by the copyright holder.
69 It should be pointed out, however, that if the licence acquired by the first acquirer relates to a greater number of users than he needs, as stated in paragraphs 22 and 24 above, the acquirer is not authorised by the effect of the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 to divide the licence and resell only the user right for the computer program concerned corresponding to a number of users determined by him.
70 An original acquirer who resells a tangible or intangible copy of a computer program for which the copyright holder’s right of distribution is exhausted in accordance with Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 must, in order to avoid infringing the exclusive right of reproduction of a computer program which belongs to its author, laid down in Article 4(1)(a) of Directive 2009/24, make his own copy unusable at the time of its resale. In a situation such as that mentioned in the preceding paragraph, the customer of the copyright holder will continue to use the copy of the program installed on his server and will not thus make it unusable.
71 Moreover, even if an acquirer of additional user rights for the computer program concerned did not carry out a new installation — and hence a new reproduction — of the program on a server belonging to him, the effect of the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 would in any event not extend to such user rights. In such a case the acquisition of additional user rights does not relate to the copy for which the distribution right was exhausted at the time of that transaction. On the contrary, it is intended solely to make it possible to extend the number of users of the copy which the acquirer of additional rights has himself already installed on his server.
72 On the basis of all the foregoing, the answer to Question 2 is that Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 must be interpreted as meaning that the right of distribution of a copy of a computer program is exhausted if the copyright holder who has authorised, even free of charge, the downloading of that copy from the internet onto a data carrier has also conferred, in return for payment of a fee intended to enable him to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of the copy of the work of which he is the proprietor, a right to use that copy for an unlimited period.
Questions 1 and 3
73 By its first and third questions the referring court seeks essentially to know whether, and under what conditions, an acquirer of used licences for computer programs, such as those sold by UsedSoft, may, as a result of the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, be regarded as a ‘lawful acquirer’ within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 who, in accordance with that provision, enjoys the right of reproduction of the program concerned in order to enable him to use the program in accordance with its intended purpose.
74 Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 provides that, in the absence of specific contractual provisions, the reproduction of a computer program does not require authorisation by the author of the program where that reproduction is necessary for the use of the computer program by the lawful acquirer in accordance with its intended purpose, including for error correction.
75 When the customer of the copyright holder purchases a copy of a computer program that is on the rightholder’s website, he performs, by downloading the copy onto his computer, a reproduction of the copy which is authorised under Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24. This is a reproduction that is necessary for the use of the program by the lawful acquirer in accordance with its intended purpose.
76 Moreover, recital 13 in the preamble to Directive 2009/24 states that ‘the acts of loading and running necessary for the use of a copy of a program which has been lawfully acquired … may not be prohibited by contract’.
77 It must be recalled, next, that the copyright holder’s distribution right is exhausted, in accordance with Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, on the occasion of the first sale in the European Union by that rightholder, or with his consent, of any copy, tangible or intangible, of his computer program. It follows that, by virtue of that provision and notwithstanding the existence of contractual terms prohibiting a further transfer, the rightholder in question can no longer oppose the resale of that copy.
78 Admittedly, as stated in paragraph 70 above, the original acquirer of a tangible or intangible copy of a computer program for which the copyright holder’s distribution right is exhausted in accordance with Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 who resells that copy must, in order to avoid infringing that rightholder’s exclusive right of reproduction of his computer program under Article 4(1)(a) of Directive 2009/24, make the copy downloaded onto his computer unusable at the time of its resale.
79 As Oracle rightly observes, ascertaining whether such a copy has been made unusable may prove difficult. However, a copyright holder who distributes copies of a computer program on a material medium such as a CD‑ROM or DVD is faced with the same problem, since it is only with great difficulty that he can make sure that the original acquirer has not made copies of the program which he will continue to use after selling his material medium. To solve that problem, it is permissible for the distributor — whether ‘classic’ or ‘digital’ — to make use of technical protective measures such as product keys.
80 Since the copyright holder cannot object to the resale of a copy of a computer program for which that rightholder’s distribution right is exhausted under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, it must be concluded that a second acquirer of that copy and any subsequent acquirer are ‘lawful acquirers’ of it within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24.
81 Consequently, in the event of a resale of the copy of the computer program by the first acquirer, the new acquirer will be able, in accordance with Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24, to download onto his computer the copy sold to him by the first acquirer. Such a download must be regarded as a reproduction of a computer program that is necessary to enable the new acquirer to use the program in accordance with its intended purpose.
82 The argument put forward by Oracle, Ireland and the French and Italian Governments that the concept of ‘lawful acquirer’ in Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 relates only to an acquirer who is authorised, under a licence agreement concluded directly with the copyright holder, to use the computer programme cannot be accepted.
83 That argument would have the effect of allowing the copyright holder to prevent the effective use of any used copy in respect of which his distribution right has been exhausted under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, by relying on his exclusive right of reproduction laid down in Article 4(1)(a) of that directive, and would thus render ineffective the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2).
84 In the case of a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, it must be recalled that in paragraphs 44 and 48 above it was found that the downloading onto the customer’s server of a copy of the computer program on the rightholder’s website and the conclusion of a user licence agreement for that copy form an indivisible whole which, as a whole, must be classified as a sale. Having regard to that indivisible link between the copy on the rightholder’s website, as subsequently corrected and updated, on the one hand, and the user licence relating to the copy, on the other, the resale of the user licence entails the resale of ‘that copy’ within the meaning of Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24, and thus benefits from the exhaustion of the distribution right under that provision, notwithstanding the term in the licence agreement set out in paragraph 23 above.
85 As may be seen from paragraph 81 above, it follows that a new acquirer of the user licence, such as a customer of UsedSoft, will be able, as a ‘lawful acquirer’ within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 of the corrected and updated copy of the computer program concerned, to download that copy from the copyright holder’s website, with that downloading constituting a reproduction of a computer program that is necessary to enable the new acquirer to use the program in accordance with its intended purpose.
86 It should be recalled, however, that, if the licence acquired by the first acquirer relates to a greater number of users than he needs, that acquirer is not authorised by the effect of the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24 to divide the licence and resell only the user right for the computer program concerned corresponding to a number of users determined by him, as explained in paragraphs 69 to 71 above.
87 Moreover, a copyright holder such as Oracle is entitled, in the event of the resale of a user licence entailing the resale of a copy of a computer program downloaded from his website, to ensure by all technical means at his disposal that the copy still in the hands of the reseller is made unusable.
88 It follows from the foregoing that the answer to Questions 1 and 3 is that Articles 4(2) and 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of the resale of a user licence entailing the resale of a copy of a computer program downloaded from the copyright holder’s website, that licence having originally been granted by that rightholder to the first acquirer for an unlimited period in return for payment of a fee intended to enable the rightholder to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of that copy of his work, the second acquirer of the licence, as well as any subsequent acquirer of it, will be able to rely on the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of that directive, and hence be regarded as lawful acquirers of a copy of a computer program within the meaning of Article 5(1) of that directive and benefit from the right of reproduction provided for in that provision.
89 Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court. Costs incurred in submitting observations to the Court, other than the costs of those parties, are not recoverable.
On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:
1. Article 4(2) of Directive 2009/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that the right of distribution of a copy of a computer program is exhausted if the copyright holder who has authorised, even free of charge, the downloading of that copy from the internet onto a data carrier has also conferred, in return for payment of a fee intended to enable him to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of the copy of the work of which he is the proprietor, a right to use that copy for an unlimited period.
2. Articles 4(2) and 5(1) of Directive 2009/24 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of the resale of a user licence entailing the resale of a copy of a computer program downloaded from the copyright holder’s website, that licence having originally been granted by that rightholder to the first acquirer for an unlimited period in return for payment of a fee intended to enable the rightholder to obtain a remuneration corresponding to the economic value of that copy of his work, the second acquirer of the licence, as well as any subsequent acquirer of it, will be able to rely on the exhaustion of the distribution right under Article 4(2) of that directive, and hence be regarded as lawful acquirers of a copy of a computer program within the meaning of Article 5(1) of that directive and benefit from the right of reproduction provided for in that provision.