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Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture Hardcover – January 1, 2005
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Bollier is co-founder of Public Knowledge, a non-profit group that aims to defend the "information commons." In Brand Name Bullies, he argues that creativity and free speech are being shut down as entertainment conglomerates and other companies push intellectual-property law to unprecedented extremes. The result is a sweeping privatization of culture and knowledge with the connivance of Congress and the courts. It is a dangerous development, Bollier suggests, because science and creativity are built upon what others have done before us. At the heart of his book are dozens of real-life stories he says show how silly things have gotten. In one case, Warner Bros. threatened young fans of the Harry Potter movies with legal action after they created Web sites to celebrate and discuss Potter. In another case, Disney challenged an anti-pornography group for quoting a single line of Walt Disney's in a brochure. Bollier also cites filmmaker Spike Lee's suit against Viacom over its Spike TV network. Even though there have been many other famous "Spikes" in American culture, Lee claimed Viacom chose the network's name to trade on his reputation. He won an injunction against the company, which agreed to an out-of-court settlement and said it incurred $17 million in losses in the case. Through these stories, Bollier succeeds in making a knotty but important legal issue both accessible and relevant for readers. --Alex Roslin
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top Customer Reviews
In "Brand Name Bullies," the author of <a href=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0415944821/qid=1108780150/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/102-9587947-0895350>Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth</a> is back with a painfully comic look at how big corporations are bullying the little guy and locking down culture with the backing of one-sided copyright, patent and trademark laws.
Bollier has written a darkly funny, accessible account of horror stories and outrages both large and small. A few years back, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers send out letters to 288 camps in the American Camping Association, demanding that Brownies and Girl Scouts stop singing copyrighted songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Row, Row, Row" unless the camping groups ponied over thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
The press had a field day with the story. Pro basketball player Shaquille O'Neal offers to pay a camp's royalties for 10 years. BMI offered to license its 3 million songs to the Girl Scouts for nothing. Duly chastened, ASCAP backed down.
Some of these issues - such as mash-ups, fan fiction, The Grey Album or the Eldred decision - will be familiar to those who have followed the recent shenanigans in IP law. (Indeed, as I write this, I'm listening to John Coltrane's My Favorite Things - a melody that would be outlawed had it been recorded today.) But Bollier's chief purpose here is to introduce these stories to a wider audience.Read more ›
Bollier's book brings these issues to light in an entertaining, enlightening way. Imagine, ASCAP going after the girl scouts for singing songs around the campfire! Imagine charging royalties for croonng "Happy birthday" at a public event.
If you're not familiar with these issues, "Brand Name Bullies" is a good primer. Read up, get educated, get mad, then fight back!
Also the law criminalizes the very kinds of inquiries that help identify security weaknesses and openly discuss ways to fix it. Many foreign scientist now avoid travel to the U.S. in fear they would run afoul of these laws. The laws that empower content industries to utterly control the sale AND AFTER MARKET USES of their works.
Did you know the song "Happy Birthday" is copyrighted?
Perhaps the best part of this book is the humorous way it approaches the subject.
The Fruit of the Looms case is worth the read alone.
The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be
-Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Well done and highly recommended!
The book is written in an entertaining manner and is an easy read. Some of the stories are amazing, like the copyright on "silence" and the patent on a method of swinging on a swing. I was especially struck by the point the author makes that creativity and research are being stifled by all these crazy laws, and the way these companies want to "own" our very actions.
Although entertaining, ultimately this book depressed me a little, because I see this problem getting worse as time goes on.
That said, I found large parts of the book to be repetitive, and didn't really give enough background/details on the various examples. I would have liked some more finger pointing, but as it stands, I'll boycott Ralph Lauren-Polo for being a putz about the name!
Recommended reading, but wish the writing was a bit better.