The course seeks to provide participants a deep understanding of the copyright system in the United States, a rough understanding of the ways in which the copyright systems of other countries differ from the U.S. system, and knowledge of the primary ways in which the systems of all countries are constrained by multilateral treaties.

As used in the course, the term “copyright system” encompasses three levels of material: theory (the arguments, drawn primarily from economics, political theory, and philosophy, concerning why and how the law should regulate uses of expressive materials); doctrine (the rules currently in force concerning uses of expressive materials and the ways in which those rules are typically interpreted and applied); and practice (how those rules affect various fields of art, industry, and culture—literature, music, film, photography, journalism, software design, architecture, fashion, comedy, games, and so forth).