Episode 227: Kyle Courtney, Copyright & Fair Use in Early America

In the 21st century, we are all creators and users of content. We take original photos with our smartphones, generate blog posts, digital videos, and podcasts. Some of us write books and articles. And nearly everyone contributes content to social media.

Given all of the information and content we generate and use, it’s really important for us to understand the principles of copyright and fair use, principles that have an early American past.

Kyle Courtney, a lawyer, librarian, and Copyright Advisor for Harvard University, will serve as our guide through the early American origins of copyright and fair use.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

Kyle Courtney, a lawyer, librarian, and Copyright Advisor for Harvard University, will serve as our guide through the early American origins of copyright and fair use.

During our investigation of these principles, Kyle reveals details about the legal concepts and principles of copyright and fair use; Precedents and influences of British American and early United States copyright laws; And, why the founders viewed copyright as important enough to include a provision for it in the United States Constitution.

What You’ll Discover

  • The legal concepts of copyright and fair use
  • Copyright in the Constitution of the United States
  • Why the Constitutional Convention empowered Congress to enact copyright laws
  • Precedents and influences for American copyright law
  • Early English legal traditions in copyright
  • The London Stationers’ Company
  • The Statute of Anne, 1710
  • Benefits of copyright protections for the English people
  • Development of American ideas about copyright in colonial laws
  • Different early American copyright laws
  • Copyright and Constitutional ratification
  • The First Federal Copyright Law of 1790
  • Origins of national deposit for copyrighted works
  • Who protected copyrighted work
  • Penalties for infringing on copyrighted works
  • The details of Wheaton v. Peters (1834)
  • Origins of Fair Use
  • English influences for United States’ fair use doctrine
  • Gyles v. Wilcox (1741)
  • Folsom v. Marsh (1837)
  • How early American ideas about copyright & fair use have influenced present-day law


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if the power to grant copyright protections had not been included in the United States Constitution? How would American history and American legal history be different?

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