Professor Grimmelmann

New York Law School

Fall 2008

About the Course


This is a comprehensive course in copyright law, with a special technological focus. At least since the printing press, the history of copyright law has been the history of its interactions with new media technologies. Repeatedly, copyright has had to adjust itself to take advantage of disruptive new technologies–or to cripple them to fit its mold. By looking at old examples such as photography and the player piano, we’ll try to gain insight into the challenges copyright faces as it deals with new digital technologies. Along the way, we’ll study in detail the major doctrines of copyright and how they fit together.


To enroll in this course, you must either have taken Intellectual Property (CIP155) already or have my permission. This course moves more quickly because I can assume that everyone in it already knows the general policies underlying intellectual property protections, the basic framework of copyright doctrine, and some of the central cases in the copyright canon.

I’ll grant permission to skip the prerequisite if you demonstrate mastery of these fundamentals or otherwise convince me that taking this class would be appropriate at this point in your legal education. I may be more willing to grant permission if you are enrolled in Intellectual Property simultaneously. If you aren’t certain whether you should take Copyright this semester, please come and talk to me and I can give you advice tailored to your situation.

Class Meetings

We meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:15-12:30 in room B400.

Here’s what I expect from you in class:


You will need:

It is utterly essential that you have a copy of the statutory supplement, to which we will make frequent and detailed reference. Copyright is a statutory subject, and many questions can only be answered through a careful reading of the statutory text.

Do not read principal cases in the Supplement unless assigned. You should, however, read any notes and questions in the Supplement that correspond to notes and questions assigned in the Casebook.


There will be a 24-hour take-home self-scheduled final exam. The exam will be open book and subject to a strict word limit. You should not need to spend more than six hours on it. The 24-hour period is designed to allow you to take the exam under comfortable conditions and with no unnecessary stress. You are responsible for anything in the readings or discussed in class, with the emphasis on what has been discussed in class.

Last year’s final exam and final exam memo are available from the syllabus

I may adjust your grade by one third up or down for class participation. I consider good class participation to be anything that helps your classmates learn. NYLS has a blind-grading policy: I won’t know who wrote which exam until after I submit your grades.

Course Web Page

This syllabus is at As the semester progresses, I’ll post updates to it here.


Office: Room 706, 40 Worth St.
Phone: (212) 431-2864
Email: jgrimmelmann (at nyls) Office Hours: Tuesday 9:00 to 11:00 A.M. and by appointment

Please put “Copyright course” somewhere in the subject line of any course-related email to me so that I can give it proper attention quickly.


Introduction, Theory, and History

Part I: Copyrightability (5 classes)


Idea and Expression

Compilations and Derivative Works

Subect Matter

Boundary Cases

Sole, Joint, and Government Authorship

Works for Hire


Formalities, Term, Renewal

Transfers and Termination

The Copyright Lawsuit


Scavenger Hunt

Proving Copying

Substantial Similarity

The Derivative Right

The Distribution Right

The Public Display and Performance Rights

The Music Industry

Direct, Vicarious, and Contributory Infringement

Peer-to-Peer and Inducement

Section 512; Criminal Infringement

Part IV: Fair Use (3 classes)

Transformation of the Original

Transformation of Purpose

Market Failure

DRM and the DMCA


Final Exam