Making Copyright Work for Authors Who Write to Be Read

Van Houweling, Molly Shaffer

As I prepared to speak on the topic of “academic perspectives” at the 2014 Kemochan Center Symposium Creation Is Not Its Own Reward: Making Copyright Work for Authors and Performers, I realized that the panel’s billing had multiple meanings for me. As a legal academic, I study the impact of copyright law on individual authors and the way that individual authors deploy copyright to manage their works. So that is one aspect of my academic perspective-that of an outsider observing authors’ relationships with copyright. But I also consider myself an author, as do other academics for whom writing scholarly books and articles is a job requirement. Most of us do not make money from selling copies of our works of authorship. But control over our works is nonetheless key to our professional endeavors, and copyright can be an important source of that control. Thus my second “academic perspective” is that of an academic author who wants copyright to work for her.

In my capacity as an academic author, I have joined with several of my Berkeley colleagues to establish an organization called Authors Alliance. We aim to represent fellow academics and other authors concerned with managing their rights in ways that ensure that their works are accessible to today’s readers and preserved for generations to come. Hence our motto: promoting authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read. This is not a mission that is at odds with authors making money from their works. But it recognizes that whether a book or article makes money or not, we want it to be accessible now and in the future and thereby to contribute to our intellectual legacies.


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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November 21, 2016