First Amendment and Copyright Law

The Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

Free speech lies at the core of everything that is great about the U.S. Enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution, Americans learn from a very young age just what a crucial role it has played in the development of our society.

What may be less frequently observed is the influence that copyright law has had on that development. The two are largely inseparable, with copyright too dating back to the foundations of the country.

To quote a Supreme Court related to the subject,

“The Framers intended copyright itself to be the engine of free expression.”


Free Speech Week and Copyright Law

This week is Free Speech Week; seven days dedicated to the freedom of expression that we hold so dear.

To celebrate and recognize the unique role that copyright law has played in ensuring free and creative expression, Terry Hart and Evan Sheres of the Copyright Alliance wrote ‘How the Creative Industries Defend Free Speech‘. In just nine pages they pack in a wealth of intriguing information and case studies that demonstrate just how crucial copyright law has been to protecting our First Amendment rights over the years.

These defenses include:

  • Fighting for the freedom of the press
  • Curbing censorship of the media and entertainers
  • Fighting to maintian ‘fair use’ standards (including a current case involving the rights of the Baltimore Ravens to use their logo)
  • Making sure stories that matter to the public interest make it to press
  • Protecting the right to caricature public figures

As the authors sagely summarize, “the Constitution itself speaks to copyright’s role in promoting a robust and free marketplace of ideas.”

Free Speech Week is not only a passive celebration of the rights we already have, but also a recognition of the mechanisms, individuals, and organizations that strive to protect them every week of every year. To them – and of course the Founding Fathers – we say, thank you!

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