INTRODUCTION

I am deeply honored to deliver the Brace Lecture, which has long served as a platform for celebrating, understanding, and addressing the challenges of the copyright system.1 I dare say that at no time in the Brace Lecture’s forty-two year history, or for that matter, copyright law’s 300 year history, has the copyright system been more severely criticized as being out of touch and out of date. We are now thirteen years since Napster’s revolutionary appearance — what seems like an eternity in the rapidly evolving Internet Age. My law students have come of age in the post-Napster era. Netizens who were in high school when peer-to-peer functionality went viral are now beyond the age at which no one should be trusted.2 We have since seen the rise of innumerable file-sharing and cyberlocker services. The emergence of the Internet as a principal platform for distributing works of authorship has focused public opinion on copyright law like at no other time in copyright’s long history. As last year’s cataclysmic battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) revealed, the glare of public opinion can be harsh. For those reasons, I would like to begin this year’s Brace Lecture by calling attention to a topic that has not attracted much attention at such staid gatherings: copyright’s public approval rating. For reasons that I will explain, the public’s perception of the copyright system has become increasingly central to its efficacy and vitality. I believe that copyright’s role in promoting progress in the creative arts, freedom, and democratic values depends critically upon restoring public support for its purposes and rules.