William & Mary Law Review


Joseph P. Liu


As copyrighted works are increasingly distributed in digital form over the Internet, our conventional print-based understandings of the rights associated with copy ownership are coming into increasing conflict with the copyright owner's right to restrict copying. Specifically, certain common activities, such as reading and transferring physical copies of copyrighted works (such as books), are increasingly being viewed as potential acts of copyright infringement when applied to digital copies. This Article explores this conflict by taking a close look at the concept of copy ownership. It argues that conventional notions of physical property ownership play an important, unrecognized role in copyright law. It further argues that, in order to preserve this role, copyright law should recognize an unlimited right to access digital copies in one's possession and a more limited right to transfer such copies to others.