The Public Display Right

The Copyright Act's Neglected Solution to the Controversy over RAM "Copies"

Although the public display right has not played a significant role in copyright law to date, in this article Professor Reese proposes that this role should become increasingly important in light of rapid computer technology advancements and the emergence of transmissions over digital-computer networks. First, Professor Reese examines the statutory text of the display right as granted by the 1976 Copyright Act, providing specific examples that illustrate the type of control the display right gives copyright owners over transmissions of their texts and images. He explores the legislative history surrounding the public display right and concludes that the drafters of the 1976 Act principally intended the right to address transmissions over computer networks. Professor Reese considers the relationship between the display right and the traditional reproduction right prior to the digitally networked era, recognizing and discussing reasons why the public display right has rarely been implicated in television transmissions. He then presents various strategic uses of the public display right for copyright owners, emphasizing its importance as a complement to the better-established reproduction right. Professor Reese moves on to explore why the display right holds even greater strategic value in the context of transmissions of works over digital computer networks. He analyzes the use of the display right, specifically in comparison to the distribution right and the \\"RAM copy\\" doctrine. Ultimately, Professor Reese concludes that the display right is a superior alternative for copyright owners, and courts, to control transmissions of copyrighted work over computer networks.*Assistant Professor, School of Law, The University of Texas at Austin. B.A., Yale University; J.D., Stanford Law School.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.