Downstream Alteration of Copyrighted Works in a World of Licensed, Digital Distribution

Chan, Grace K.

The prospect of downstream alteration raises questions about the appropriate scope of licensing terms, the objectives of copyright law and even the meaning of art. It provides an impetus to tackle these questions by concretizing what was once but a thought experiment. Part I introduces the notion of copy ownership and contrasts it with the increasingly popular method of licensing copyrighted works. Part II argues that downstream alteration of a copyrighted work through the use of software-like updates impermissibly expands authorial control. Finally, Part III briefly outlines several ways in which licensing terms that purport to allow the copyright holder to make downstream changes to a copyrighted work can be limited.


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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February 6, 2014