Between Code and Treatise: The Hard Challenge of the Restatement of Copyright

Liu, Joseph P.

The proposed Restatement of Copyright raises a question that has been obvious to everyone from the very start of the project:  How do you restate an area of the law governed by a comprehensive federal statute? Restatements have, to date, focused near-exclusively on common law subjects.  The Reporters of other Restatements thus did not operate in the shadow of an authoritative uniform federal statute.  Instead, they faced an unruly and “ever-growing mass of decisions in the many different jurisdictions, state and federal, within the United States.”  From this mass of decisions, the Reporters derived the “black-letter law” and “restated” the law in a form resembling a code.  In doing so, reporters sought to bring order, clarity, and coherence to a body of law that lacked any other means of doing so.  But if this act of restating the law in the form of a code is a central feature of a Restatement, then how do you restate an area of law that already has a comprehensive code?  What is to be gained by essentially re-codifying the law?


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The Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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August 29, 2022