Sociology Index

Common law copyright doctrine

Common law copyright is the legal doctrine which contends that copyright is a natural right and creators are therefore entitled to the same protections anyone would be in regard to tangible and real property.

Common law copyright doctrine was repudiated by the courts in the United Kingdom (Donaldson v. Beckett, 1784) and the United States (Wheaton v. Peters, 1834). In both countries, the courts found that copyright is a limited right created by the legislature under statutes and subject to the conditions and terms the legislature sees fit to impose.

Common law copyright doctrine contends that creators had a perpetual right to control the publication of their work. Common law copyright doctrine contends that copyright is a natural right and creators are therefore entitled to the same protections anyone would be in regard to tangible and real property.

British Parliament has granted perpetual royalties (but not control) in regard to Peter Pan though it is under no obligation to do so and can set a limited term.

The United States Congress is prevented by the Copyright Clause from granting a perpetual copyright, the Supreme Court has ruled that limits on copyrights already granted can be extended.