As the title indicates, this book examines the great paradox of modern copyright law in America. Copyright was meant to encourage and protect creativity, but is now used to restrict that same expression. For the layperson, copyright law may seem to be a guarantee of compensation for an artist's expressive works for a limited time, after which that expression enters the public domain for the benefit of all Americans. But in the real world (that is, the modern legal and business environment), corporations have hijacked copyright law for ensuring profits and suppressing contrarian speakers, and have heavily lobbied courts and lawmakers to accept this fractured anti-speech and anti-market definition of "expression." In another paradox, media industries complain about how new computerized tools damage their profits and beg lawmakers to stop the proliferation of those tools, while at the same time using that very same technology to gain rights and market power far beyond what copyright allows. Thus, today's legal landscape for copyright is a severe mutation of the law's original intent (from the Founding Fathers) as an engine to promote speech and the progress of knowledge.
As an academic researcher on this subject, I have seen many commentators bemoan these modern problems with copyright law in a variety of settings. But with this book, Netanel has created the most authoritative and concise study yet of the un-American mutation of copyright law into a vehicle for unfettered media industry profits, while it inexorably drifts away from its origins as an incentive for creativity and an engine of free expression. Netanel concludes the book with highly plausible (though overly ambitious, politically speaking) solutions that could just get copyright law back where it belongs - in the creative minds of the people. [~doomsdayer520~]
on August 6, 2008
Anyone who are interested in or have read Benkler's book The wealth of Networks should read this book. There are many insights of this book, such as the structural function of copyright and the concept and importance of diversity. In a word, Netanel elegantly shows us how copyright enhances(past tense though) and burdens free speech, and he proposes a remaking of copyright base on what he called Free Speech Principle.