Legal Internalism in Modern Histories of Copyright

72 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2020

See all articles by Shyamkrishna Balganesh

Shyamkrishna Balganesh

Columbia University - Law School

Taisu Zhang

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: September 4, 2020


Legal internal-ism refers to the internal point of view that professional participants in a legal practice develop towards it. It represents a behavioral phenomenon wherein such participants treat the domain of law (or a subset of it) as normative, epistemologically self-contained, and logically coherent on its own terms regardless of whether the law actually embodies those characteristics. Thus understood, legal internal-ism remains an important characteristic of all modern legal systems. In this Review Essay, we examine three recent interdisciplinary histories of copyright law to showcase the working of legal internal-ism. We argue that while their interdisciplinary emphasis adds to the conversation about copyright, it also overlooks the centrality of legal internal-ism in the evolution of copyright, a domain that has always been understood as a creation of the law. The Essay unpacks the core tenets of legal internal-ism, examines how it operates as an important variable of legal change, contrasts it with the idea of legal consciousness, and shows how legal internal-ism directs and regulates the entry of non-legal considerations into different areas of law.

Keywords: internal-ism, copyright, history, legal consciousness, behavioral, normativity

JEL Classification: K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Balganesh, Shyamkrishna and Zhang, Taisu, Legal Internalism in Modern Histories of Copyright (September 4, 2020). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 134, Forthcoming, Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Shyamkrishna Balganesh (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States


Taisu Zhang

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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