Copyrights and Copywrongs The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity

by Siva Vaidhyanathan

Copyrights and Copywrongs The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity Synopsis

Copyright reflects far more than economic interests. Embedded within conflicts over royalties and infringement are cultural values-about race, class, access, ownership, free speech, and democracy-which influence how rights are determined and enforced. Questions of legitimacy-of what constitutes intellectual property or fair use, and of how to locate a precise moment of cultural creation-have become enormously complicated in recent years, as advances in technology have exponentially increased the speed of cultural reproduction and dissemination. In Copyrights and Copywrongs, Siva Vaidhyanathan tracks the history of American copyright law through the 20th century, from Mark Twain's vehement exhortations for thick copyright protection, to recent lawsuits regarding sampling in rap music and the digital moment, exemplified by the rise of Napster and MP3 technology. He argues persuasively that in its current punitive, highly restrictive form, American copyright law hinders cultural production, thereby contributing to the poverty of civic culture. In addition to choking cultural expression, recent copyright law, Vaidhyanathan argues, effectively sanctions biases against cultural traditions which differ from the Anglo-European model. In African-based cultures, borrowing from and building upon earlier cultural expressions is not considered a legal trespass, but a tribute. Rap and hip hop artists who practice such borrowing by sampling and mixing, however, have been sued for copyright violation and forced to pay substantial monetary damages. Similarly, the oral transmission of culture, which has a centuries-old tradition within African American culture, is complicated by current copyright laws. How, for example, can ownership of music, lyrics, or stories which have been passed down through generations be determined? Upon close examination, strict legal guidelines prove insensitive to the diverse forms of cultural expression prevalent in the United States, and reveal much about the racialized cultural values which permeate our system of laws. Ultimately, copyright is a necessary policy that should balance public and private interests but the recent rise of intellectual property as a concept have overthrown that balance. Copyright, Vaidhyanathan asserts, is policy, not property. Bringing to light the republican principles behind original copyright laws as well as present-day imbalances and future possibilities for freer expression and artistic equity, this volume takes important strides towards unraveling the complex web of culture, law, race, and technology in today's global marketplace.

Copyrights and Copywrongs The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity Press Reviews

Vaidhyanathan's incredibly thorough unraveling of both the history of copyright law and the cultural importance of rewriting current copyright policy is invaluable and long overdue. -Christy Mulligan,New York Metro Computer User Copyrights and Copywrongs is an urgent information-age wake-up call to a public cocooned in belief that `copyright' is a seal and safeguard for consumers and producers of culture-ware. This book guides us into the legal labyrinth of a new world of so-called intellectual property, in which `fair use' isn't fair, where rights are waived and free speech-when we can get it-costs a great deal of money. From print books to video games, Copyrights and Copywrongs shows free expression in a legalistic chokehold. Clearly written, meticulously argued, this book is a must. -Cecelia Tichi,author of Embodiment of a Nation: Human Form in American Spaces Illuminating. -Bookforum(April-June 2002) It has taken lawyers 200-plus years to morph copyright law from the balanced compromise that our framers struck to the extraordinary system of control that it has become. In this beautifully written book, a nonlawyer has uncovered much of the damage done. Copyrights and Copywrongs is a rich and compelling account of the bending of American copyright law, and a promise of the balance that we could once again make the law become -Lawrence Lessig,Stanford Law School and author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace Siva Vaidhyanathan has done a big favor for the academic and library communities. In this book, he has spelled out in clear, understandable language what's at stake in the battles over the nation's intellectual property. The issues brought forward are critical to the future of scholarship and creativity. Librarians and academics are wise to purchase this book and add it to their `must read' lists. -Nancy Kranich,President, American Library Association, 2000-2001

Book Information

ISBN: 9780814788073
Publication date: 1st April 2003
Author: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Publisher: New York University Press
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 255 pages
Categories: Intellectual property law,

About Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan is the Robertson Family Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. His work has appeared on public radio, on CNN, BBC, and in publications such as The American Scholar, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post BookWorld, Fast Company, The Chronicle of Higher Education, BookForum, and Dissent.

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