Statutory damages in copyright law: “On forgetting how to read a statute”
Art Law

Statutory damages in copyright law: “On forgetting how to read a statute”

My colleague Sam Bray, who is one of the nation’s leading remedies experts, and also someone whose judgment I very much trust, passes along this note highly recommending Prof. Tomas Gómez-Arostegui’s “ What History Teaches Us About U.S. Copyright Law and Statutory Damages “: Mark Twain said many witty things. He also didn’t say many witty things that have been attributed to him, and one of the best fake Mark Twain quotes is: “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, but what you know for sure that ain’t so.” In a short essay published in 2013, Professor Tomás Gómez-Arostegui takes aim at one of the things we knew for sure that ain’t so about statutory damages in copyright law, namely that they were once intended to serve a strictly compensatory function. Professor Gómez-Arostegui’s essay is brief and somewhat opaquely titled ( What History Teaches Us about US Copyright Law and Statutory Damages ). But it is a neglected gem, and I hope this post brings it further attention from scholars of copyright, remedies and statutory interpretation. The Copyright Act of 1909 authorized statutory damages but said they “shall not be regarded as a penalty.” To […]

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