Proposal to reboot and de-cruft US Copyright Law

Pam Samuelson is one of the most important copyright scholars in the world, someone respected by players on all sides of the debate, and she has just published a paper modestly entitled "Preliminary Thoughts on Copyright Reform." "Preliminary Thoughts" is a brisk and readable 16-page paper that traces the origin of the present, 200+ page copyright frankenstatute, a law that has been amended 20 times since it was codified in 1976, so that it can barely be understood by experts, let alone by laypeople. However, laypeople are ever-more under its jurisdiction, since practically everything we do on the Internet involves making copies.

So Pam wants to revisit copyright, redraft it from the start, refactoring it like a Wikipedia article that has grown too large and weird to be properly understood. This is a capital idea, and her very concrete suggestions set out both a plan of attack and a set of principles that would make copyright safe for the age of the Internet.

By focusing on these core elements of copyright, I do not mean to suggest that
nothing but these elements should be in a model copyright law or principles document.
Yet perhaps anything else nominated for inclusion in the model law or principles should
have to be accompanied by a justification as to why it needs to be there, and why it
should not be achieved through common law evolution of copyright law by judges or
delegated to an administrative rule-making process.102

A model copyright law should also be written in plain English so ordinary people,
and not just the high priests of copyright, can understand what it means and the normative
reason that it should be part and parcel of the basic statutory framework.103 A model
copyright law should also articulate the purposes that it seeks to achieve and offer some
guidance about how competing interests should be balanced, perhaps through a series of
comments on the model law or principles.104

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