Copyright law emerged from the technological, economic, and legal-philosophical transformations produced by the invention of the printing press, the rise of capitalism, and the ideological construction of the author as owner. The term “copyright” is self-defining, for it means, quite literally, the right to copy. Copyright protects all types of original expression— including art, literature, music, songs, maps, software, film, and choreography, among other things. In order to be copyrightable, a work merely needs to rise to the most minimal level of originality. But not everything does. For example, the US Supreme Court ruled that telephone books and other such databases are not copyrightable, because an alphabetical list of names and numbers is simply not original or creative enough to be protected by copyright law (Feist v. Rural Telephone 1991).

This essay may be found on page 49 of the printed volume.

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