New Scholarship: Copyright as Welfare
Professor Tom Bell has posted an article entitled “Authors’ Welfare: Copyright as a Statutory Mechanism for Redistributing Rights,” analogizing copyright to welfare. From the abstract:
Both welfare and copyright primarily aim to correct the market’s failure to sufficiently support a particular class of beneficiaries. Both encourage rights-based claims to the entitlements that they create, too. The welfare system and the copyright system each uses statutory mechanisms to redistribute rights – rights to wealth in the first instance, rights to chattels and persons in the second – from the general public to particular beneficiary classes – the poor and authors, respectively. Each also includes special exceptions designed to avoid inefficient or inequitable redistributions. The charitable gift deduction and other tax code provisions limit the welfare system’s scope, whereas copyright law offers fair use and other defenses to infringement claims. Perhaps those and other similarities between welfare and copyright mean little. After considering various critiques, however, the paper concludes that we can learn important lessons from understanding copyright as a statutory mechanism for redistributing rights. Most notably, understanding copyright as a form of authors’ welfare suggests the need for, and potential shape of, reforms to end copyright as we know it.