Article   |   Volume 166, Issue 2

Copyright as Market Prospect

By
166 U. Pa. L. Rev. 443 (2018)

January 2018












For many decades now, copyright jurisprudence and scholarship have looked to the common law of torts—principally trespass and negligence—in order to understand copyright’s structure of entitlement and liability. This focus on property—and harm‐based torts—has altogether ignored an area of tort law with significant import for our understanding of copyright law: tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage. This Article develops an understanding of copyright law using tortious interference with a prospect as a homology. Tortious interference with a prospect allows a plaintiff to recover when a defendant’s volitional actions interfere with a potential economic benefit that was likely to accrue to the plaintiff prior to the defendant’s intervention. Premised on the idea of a probabilistic harm and driven by instrumental considerations, the tort works by treating a possible market benefit as the basis of an interest that is worthy of protection against specific behavior. As a supposed incentive for creativity, copyright law operates in ways that are strikingly similar to tortious interference with a prospect. Much like tortious interference with a prospect, it functions by first identifying a zone of probabilistic market benefits, and then protecting that zone against specific volitional interferences through a framework of liability. This Article unpacks the strong analytical and normative parallels between the two, and argues that their similarity sheds new and important light on several persistent puzzles within current copyright jurisprudence.

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