Copyright Issues with the “Black Hole” Image and Their Legal Implications

Author: Yahong Li

Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journalvol. 38, Issue 1, p. 55 – 83.

Published on 31 January 2020

Abstract: The release of the world’s first-ever black hole image generated an immediate copyright dispute and revealed multiple copyright issues that remain unsettled. This paper argues that the black hole image should be left in the public domain without copyright protection because: first, the image’s copyrightability and copyright ownership are too uncertain to warrant a legal protection, making fair use and compulsory licensing largely irrelevant; second, the image is a work of world significance that was created through broad international collaboration with substantial public funding, which has a strong implication for public interest in access of the work; and third, Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license cannot guarantee public access because it can be changed to a more restrictive license. This paper concludes that only leaving the black hole image in the public domain can copyright’s objective of increasing public access of creative works and promoting scientific progress be achieved.

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