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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 93059 Find in a Library
Title: Son-of-Sam Laws - When the Lunatic, the Criminal, and the Poet Are of Imagination All Compact
Journal: St Louis University Law Journal  Volume:27  Dated:(1983)  Pages:207-231
Author(s): S Clark
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 25
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Because the victim of a crime has a remedy to recover damages in a conventional civil action, literary profits statutes that require proceeds of a criminal's literary work to be placed in a victims' fund may be superfluous, as well as invalidated by the Federal Copyright Act.
Abstract: Spurred by the 'Son of Sam' David Berkowitz case, New York pioneered literary profits legislation in 1977, and several States have since enacted similar laws. These laws, however, do not fit the conventional fruits-of-the-crime maxim because the benefit to the criminal is indirect, and it is questionable whether a criminal has any less right to derive money from reporting events than newscasters and other authors. The only real advantage to placing such royalties in a victims' fund is that the statutes establish a sequence of priorities in which payments to victims supercede other civil claims against the criminal, but a statute could accomplish this objective without subjecting the criminal and publishers to dealing with a Crime Compensation Board. The Federal Copyright Act, section 201(e), forbids the seizure, expropriation, or transfer of any exclusive rights granted to an author, including the right to sell one's work. The literary profits laws take away that exclusivity by giving a Crime Compensation Board the power to distribute proceeds from the sale of the criminal-author's work. An amendment to the Copyright Act could legitimize the literary profits laws, but would contravene a fundamental principle of copyright to encourage the production of a diverse body of cultural works. Finally, literary and artistic works by criminals should not be discouraged because they may contribute to criminology, further the rehabilitation of other criminals, and aid in crime prevention. The article appends an illustration of difficulties that arise when Son of Sam laws are applied to pictorial works and the text of New York's law. Over 100 footnotes are supplied.
Index Term(s): Copyright laws; Literary profits statutes; New York; Victim compensation
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