Copyright Law: The issues to watch for in 2022

Jan. 1 was National Copyright Law Day. In celebration of a law that works to protect intellectual property, we asked a few of the Newhouse School’s communications law experts to answer the following question:

What are the new/emerging issues facing copyright law?

Nina Iacono Brown

Associate Professor

Did Andy Warhol infringe copyright?

“One of the key copyright issues to watch in 2022 is whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear a case involving an iconic Andy Warhol work featuring the artist Prince. In creating the art, Warhol relied on a photograph of Prince—and the photographer claims this was infringement. The key question in the case is whether Warhol’s use of the photo was transformative—which would bolster the Warhol Foundation’s claim that this is a fair use. A surprising ruling from the Court of Appeals has created uncertainty in this space, hopefully the Supreme Court will provide some clarity.”

Roy Gutterman


Associate Professor

Associate Professor

Copyright law and new technologies

“Over the years, we have seen copyright protection extend to new technologies and new challenges. It is fascinating to think that the constitutional underpinnings for copyright protection from 1789 have empowered congress to afford protections to inventors and creators. Could the framers of the constitution envision that the same laws extending copyright protection to books, maps and charts two centuries later would encompass movies, computer codes and digital streaming? Maybe, maybe not. But they gave future generations the tools to encourage and protect creativity. Looking forward, it might not be possible to predict the next technological leaps, but we can acknowledge that those next developments would not come to fruition without laws like the Copyright Act that give creators protections to capitalize on their creations.”

Chrissy Maron


The rise of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

“While not a new technology, the popularity of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. With that added attention comes the increased risk for those NFTs to be duplicated or manipulated. Rights holders themselves are responsible for enforcing their copyright and it remains to be seen if owners of NFTs will be able to employ more traditional methods of monitoring use or if they will need to use more rigorous procedures to prevent counterfeit copies from hitting the market. Something to keep an eye on in 2022, and beyond!”

Kyla Garrett Wagner

Assistant Professor

New additions to the public domain

“As I think about the start of a new year and copyright issues “to watch” I immediately think about what works will move to the public domain —works that are no longer protected by copyright law and can no longer be owned by an individual author or artist. For example, starting Jan. 1, 2022, the famous “Winnie-the-Pooh,” a book first published in 1926, will enter the public domain and can be used freely. And because of changes to copyright law in 1998, this will continue to happen every Jan. 1 for the foreseeable future. So I say, watch and see what’s to come for the public domain.”