Emory Law Journal

Volume 64Issue 1

Urban Decay, Austerity, and the Rule of Law

Brent T. White, Simone M. Sepe, Saura Masconale | 64 Emory L.J. 1 (2014)

Detroit has failed and its infrastructure is crumbling. But Detroit is not an isolated case. It is a paradigmatic example of increasing urban decay across the United States. While commentators have warned that the declining state of the country’s infrastructure threatens U.S. prosperity, there is a bigger issue at stake. Decaying urban environments jeopardize the rule of law, undermining the very foundation of the social contract. This Article shows that the strength of the rule of law in a given country can be predicted by that government’s ability (or inability) to provide public services—particularly, a livable urban environment. When urban decay sets in, individuals are led to believe that the government and thus citizens as a collective have abandoned their commitments to following the basic rules governing the social contract. This, in turn, reduces incentives of individuals to engage in lawful behavior. As a result, the rule of law is, like the city itself, left in shambles. In support of this theoretical account, we provide empirical evidence that urban decay weakens the rule of law.

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An Information Theory of Copyright Law

Jeanne C. Fromer | 64 Emory L.J. 71 (2014)

The dominant American theory of copyright law is utilitarian, in offering the incentive of limited copyright protection to creators to generate material that is valuable to society. Less settled is the question of the sorts of works that copyright law seeks to encourage: Ever more copyrightable creations? Only some that are artistically worthy? What makes a work valuable to society? This Article seeks to answer important aspects of these questions by examining them through the lens of information theory, a branch of applied mathematics that quantifies information and suggests optimal ways to transmit it. Using these concepts, this Article proposes that what makes expressive works valuable to society is that they make a contribution in at least one of two principal ways: by using that expression to communicate knowledge—be it systematic, factual, or cultural—and by conveying expression that is enjoyable in and of itself. Information theory sheds light on how copyright law can spur these valuable works.

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