Current Issue

Fair Use and the Future of Art

Amy Adler

Twenty-five years ago, in a seminal article in the Harvard Law Review, Judge Leval changed the course of copyright jurisprudence by introducing the concept of “transformativeness” into fair use law. Soon thereafter, the Supreme Court embraced Judge Leval’s new creation, calling the transformative inquiry the “heart of the fair use” doctrine. As Judge Leval conceived it, the purpose of the transformative inquiry was to protect the free speech and creativity interests that fair use should promote by offering greater leeway for creators to build on preexisting works. In short, the transformative standard would ensure that copyright law did not “stifle the very creativity which that law [was] designed to foster.”

This Article shows that the transformative test has not only failed to accomplish this goal; the test itself has begun to “stifle the very creativity which that law was designed to foster.” In the realm of the arts, one of the very areas whose progress copyright law is designed to promote, the transformative standard has become an obstacle to creativity. Artistic expression has emerged as a central fair use battleground in the courts. At the same time that art depends on copying, the transformative test has made the legality of copying in art more uncertain, leaving artists vulnerable to lawsuits under a doctrine that is incoherent and that fundamentally misunderstands the very creative work it governs. The transformative test has failed art. This Article shows why and what to do about it, turning to the art market itself as a possible solution to the failure of the transformative use test.

Personalizing Negligence Law

Omri Ben-Shahar & Ariel Porat

The most fundamental feature of negligence law is the “reasonable person” standard. This feature bases negligence law on a strictly objective foundation: It requires people to behave in the prudent way that, as Holmes explained, the ordinary, typical member of their community observes. In this Article we argue that with the increasing availability of information about actors’ characteristics, negligence law should give up much of its objectivity by allowing courts to “subjectify” the standard of care—that is, to tailor it to the specific injurer’s tendency to create risks and his or her ability to reduce them. We discuss the effects of this personalization of the standard of care on injurers’ and victims’ incentives to take care, injurers’ activity levels, and the injurers’ ex ante investments in improving their skills. We also discuss justice considerations as well as the feasibility of personalization with the aid of “Big Data.”

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