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Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
This is a great read. Like most people, I knew nothing about copyright law before I read this book . . . except that I likely violate it by using BitTorrent and by "disseminating" accounts of baseball games without the express written consent of major league baseball. Apparently, according to Mazzone, only one of those is unlawful.

Mazzone's book is about Copyfraud: falsely claiming copyright ownership of another's creative works. Given all the crying by record and production companies about piracy, who knew that they were stealing, too? This book is an eyeopening account of false copyright claims and what can be done to remedy a bad situation. Especially in light of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, it is shocking to think that it's easier to punish a high school student for illegally downloading a song than the record company for illegally claiming to own it.

This is a must read--not just for artists, photographers, musicians, and writers--but for ordinary folk like me who enjoy a great piece of nonfiction and care about preserving my rights.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
We've all heard concerns voiced by music companies and publishers about piracy in the digital era, but Brooklyn Law School professor Jason Mazzone gives us the first book dedicated to the problem of those same companies overreaching beyond the limits of copyright law to claim copyright protections on works or parts of works that are in the public domain. "Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law" shows the extent to which overreaching occurs, why it occurs, and proposes solutions that would ensure the public can freely use the materials that it is entitled to use. Mazzone is not at all pro-piracy. He believes "in strong intellectual property rights and a strong public domain." But the public domain is increasingly in jeopardy. Overreaching threatens to stifle free expression and innovation, and to make us pay to use a lot of stuff we should have for free.

Mazzone explains what the copyright laws are and how they are being abused in the first six chapters, tackles trademarks in one chapter, then presents detailed proposals for "how to stop copyfraud, protect fair use, and restore the public domain." He begins with copyfraud, the most straightforward form of overreaching, which is simply "the act of falsely claiming a copyright in a public domain work." This commonly occurs with works for which the copyright has expired and is exploited to force people to pay licensing fees for public domain works. The uncertainty built into the definition of "fair use" causes even more expensive problems, when companies insist that every snippet of their work be licensed. -Having attended NYU, I wondered when someone would get around to suing them for all those photocopied course packets. Mazzone talks about that too.

As expected, digital materials get a lot of attention: the crackdown on sampling and mash-ups that has hit hip-hop artists hard, the disaster of DMCA takedown notices that remove web content before the validity of the claim is evaluated, the strategy that businesses have adopted to license digital products rather than sell them, depriving consumers of the benefits of first-sale doctrine. And there is a chapter dedicated to "contracting around contract law". Museums, libraries and archival collections commonly require people to sign a contract promising not to publish or excerpt a public domain work. Stories of Disney and Mattel being overzealous in their trademark enforcement are all over the news, but Mazzone draws attention to the costs to documentary filmmakers when they inadvertently get a trademark in the frame, among other uses of trademark that should be non-infringing.

Each chapter presents notable court cases and concludes with a section on what can be done about the problem, but the last three chapters offer legal remedies in more detail. These chapters are drier than the rest of the book and contain no narrative. There are numerous proposals to choose from, legislation at the state and local level and how existing law may be used to defend the public domain. Mazzone also proposes a catalog of public domain works that would clearly establish what is in the public domain. Many forms of overreaching are known to the general public, but "Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property Law" is an eye-opener of how widespread the problem is and how much money is involved. Jason Mazzone clearly explains intellectual property laws and their abuses and makes a strong case for doing something about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
In defence of the public domain, this book by a law professor attacks the widespread abuse of copyright law. Although mainly directed at abuse in the USA, copyright is also abused in the UK by many who should know better. He mentions many public bodies such as Universities and Public Libraries who deliberately flaunt copyright law by claiming copyright on items which are in the public domain. Copyright applies to all original works for a period of the life of the author plus 70 years. This is a very long term by any stretch of the imagination, especially when compared with a patent lifetime of just 20 years. So books which written long ago by such luminaries as Dickens and Shakespeare have a copyright notice imprinted on their title pages, flouting the clear breach of the law. But there is an equally egregious practice of issuing a license (of unlimited duration) to any one who wants to copy an out-of-copyright work, usually on payment of a fee. The practice is widely used in the UK by Universities and Libraries which hold often unique works, such as manuscripts, books, maps and photographs which are well beyond conventional copyright law. I came across the practice when writing my book, Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay: reinvestgating the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879 in 2004, when I wanted to use photographs dating from 1880 of the fallen remains of the old bridge. They had been taken by Valentines, the local photographer in Dundee for the official inquiry, and were critical in determining the cause of the bridge collapse. Although we had paid for scanning and publishing the pictures held by a Scottish University, we were asked for another fee for putting the same photographs in a book. It took much letter writing to disabuse the university of that alleged right, and we pointed out that we had already paid them well for their scans, and that university libraries have a duty to inform and educate the public, which is what we were doing. I then bought at a modest fee the same photographs which were available on e-bay, scanned them myself, and posted them on Wikipedia Commons, so that any one could use and download them for free. They are now in the Public Domain, and that library has lost the publicity for their collection. Jason Mazzone advocates a change in the US law to penalise such attempts at copytheft and copyfraud, much like the patent law, where false attempts to claim a patent where none exists, is illegal, and we can but hope that similar attempts are made in the UK. This book is a timely reminder of the problems of copyright in the digital age.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2012
Very important book, especially as Congress is considering expanding the already extensive powers of copyright owners.

Intellectual property commentary has not spent enough time on the fact of IP overenforcement as it confronts users. Mazzone's book highlights an underappreciated problem of rights fabrication that threatens to become a form of private legislation. If the intellectual property system is to genuinely promote innovation and creativity, it will need to address the problems he describes. Mazzone's policy recommendations are wise and often original, both recognizing and building on a large law review literature on IP reform.

There are many works that critique copyright overenforcement, but none frames the issue in the way that Mazzone does. Moreover, his closing arguments present a uniquely level-headed and persuasive account of the policy changes that could improve matters.

Mazzone hits the "sweet spot" between sparse summary and prolix pontification. Mazzone is a gifted writer who can make an argument about even dry topics move briskly and engagingly. Overall, a wonderful read and a worthy contribution to the IP literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2011
Brooklyn Law Professor Jason Mazzone has created a wonderful guide and overview to intellectual property and its uses and abuses. Any participant in today's content-centric world needs to understand the concepts that he discusses. He makes strong cases for reform and reminds us how intellectual property can be so easily misused and abused.I have read other legal books and found them too legal-esque. Mazzone makes the subject accessible and understandable to the non-lawyer. I highly recommend this book for anyone concerned about creating content -- musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, and others.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2011
Everyone -- from attorneys to artists to the intellectually curious alike (and hopefully some members of Congress) -- will enjoy this engaging look at how companies are effectively stealing rights from the public through misrepresentation and overreaching. With countless books on copyright available these days, it's surprising that this is the first of its kind to look into the cracks in the law and critically examine the effects of industry practices designed to frighten the public into paying for something that should be free. Mazzone's book is interesting, well-conceived, timely and very well-written -- a definitive text for anyone interested in the dark side of the copyright moon.
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on February 26, 2012
Excellent book in that it gives sources for his statistics and references. Also well written and moves right along. At the same time period I was reading this book, I watched a DVD titled Copyright Criminals, about the music sampling issues in hip-hop music with interviews with some of the big names. (As Mazzone alludes to, there aren't many new names; they can't afford the licensing fees) It confirms that corporate America has way too much power and influence in setting the cultural climate, with lawsuit threats, license contracts circumventing creative rights, and general greed and corruption. Oh well, what's new. Good luck on changing all this.

But with much bigger cultural problems like policing the world to support the military-industrial complex, and how to not spend money on social programs, I doubt if the copyright problem will get much traction in Congress. As an example, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission doesn't get adequate funding or power to police illegal trading or sale of evil trading instruments like sub-prime mortgage packages which the designer sells and then balances with credit-default swaps.

Please feel free to correct me on any of this.
As an artist in the visual arts, I have a minor interest in copyright, but my standing is also minor, so I haven't had to deal with licensing or infringement. I have however improvised on some public domain art and some that's not.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
This book is a must in any legal professional's library since it deals with an area that is of utmost importance in today's world. Further, it is is written in such a manner that a lay person would also find it very useful. I applaud the author for taking a difficult area and distilling the important elements.
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on February 23, 2013
Read this book and get schooled.

I for one hope the someone someday will take this material, build a case and save "Fair Use".

Not being dramatic here copyright law has to be dealt with or interpretational endeavors are history.

Great book
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This book starts rather off topic with a polemic about access to California beaches. Yes there are parallels but it doesn't really add much--if anything--and could have been done in a couple pages. The book is well researched and makes very good points. It clarifies a number of areas and makesa good case as to why Copyright is badly broken.
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