In my last IP Issues entry, I discussed the advantages of reinstating formalities as prerequisites to copyright protection. In this entry, I will suggest one way in which this reinstatement might take place.

For most of modern copyright law’s existence, a work of expression received copyright protection only if the author complied with several formalities, such as registering the work with a government agency and placing a copyright notice on each copy of the work (the ubiquitous C-in-a-circle).

These formalities served two functions. The first is what I call the “threshold” function: They gave the author a chance to demonstrate his or her desire for copyright protection. The rationale was that if an author could not be bothered to expend the minimal effort to register a work or include a notice on published copies, then he or she was clearly uninterested in obtaining legal protection. Non-compliant works would simply enter the public domain. [...]

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