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Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture Hardcover


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Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture + Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471679275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471679271
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,040,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine if today's far-reaching laws on copyright and trademark were sent back in time to the days of William Shakespeare. On the opening day of Romeo and Juliet, the heirs of first-century Roman poet Ovid would surely have filed the case of Estate of Ovid v. William Shakespeare, alleging that the Bard had made unauthorized use of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which is also based on two lovers from warring families. The legal conflict would have scared off theaters, and the play would have dropped into obscurity. It might seem ridiculous, but David Bollier, author of Brand Name Bullies, says this scenario is common under today's copyright and trademark law, which he calls "replete with tales of the bizarre and hilarious."

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

Starred Review. Society’s growing mania to "propertize" every idea, image, sound and scent that impinges on our consciousness is ably dissected in this hilarious and appalling exposé of intellectual property law. Bollier, author of Silent Theft, compiles a long litany of copyright and trademark excesses, many of them familiar from brief flurries of media coverage but, in his view, no less outrageous for it. Music royalty consortium ASCAP sought fees from the Girl Scouts for singing copyrighted songs around the campfire; McDonalds threatened businesses with the Mc prefix in their names; Disney threatened a day-care center that painted Mickey and Goofy on its walls; and Mattel sued a rock band that dared satirize Barbie in song. Nor is it only corporate megaliths that resort to this petty legal thuggery. Martin Luther King’s estate forbids unauthorized use of his "I Have a Dream" speech (but rents it to Telecom ad campaigns), and the author of a completely silent composition was asked for royalties because it allegedly infringed on avant-garde composer John Cage’s own completely silent composition. Bollier is a sure guide through the thickets of intellectual property law, writing in an engaging style that spotlights capitalism and its supporting cast of lawyers at their most absurd. But he probes a deeper problem: as the public domain becomes a private monopoly, he warns, our open society, which depends on the free, collective elaboration of a shared "cultural commons," will wither away. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. D. Lasica on February 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For the past few years, intellectual property law has been the playground of lawyers, geeks and scholars. Now comes <a href=[...]>David Bollier</a> to explain why this seemingly arcane field should matter to the rest of us.

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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jessica C. Friedman (tech savvy) on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've recently begun reading up on the subject of corporate efforts to take control of our culture,. While the material here may be familiar turf to many , it was eye opening to me. I had no idea that copyright law had been distorted and bent against the interests of those it was meant to serve: the public (for it's a bargain between the creator and the public, not simply a property right interest, as many people commonly assume).

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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Barricklow VINE VOICE on December 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book shows copyright industries- film, music, publishing, information- routinely raid the public domain for material in the classic Disney modus operandi- to privitize. Then they and the likes of Microsoft & McDonalds use their battalions of lawyers to use trademarks as blunt instruments in cultural intimidation and censorship. Free speech and artistic expression be damned! Add a little chicanery and you have automatic retroactive copyright protection to works THAT WERE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN! Copyright & trademark are essentially monopoly rights. Now they are monopolizing cultur. Trademark law made sense in the context of the market place, they make much less sense now that the market place has become our culture.
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!
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By booksy on March 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thought I knew a little bit about copyright and trademark law, but reading this book really showed me how these laws, set up originally to help individuals, are now squelching everything from artists' creativity to new medical research. This book shows what can go wrong when big corporations and other money-hungry entities start trying to own everything we do under the guise of copyright/trademark law.

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.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CaliforniaMDS on May 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The topic of this book is incredible. Hard to beleive it's gone this far. It boggles the mind.

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.
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