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Digital Barbarism: A Writer's Manifesto Hardcover – April 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Back Cover
World-renowned novelist Mark Helprin offers a ringing Jeffersonian defense of private property in the age of digital culture, with its degradation of thought and language, and collectivist bias against the rights of individual creators.
Mark Helprin anticipated that his 2007 New York Times op-ed piece about the extension of the term of copyright would be received quietly, if not altogether overlooked. Within a week, the article had accumulated 750,000 angry comments. He was shocked by the breathtaking sense of entitlement demonstrated by the commenters, and appalled by the breadth, speed, and illogic of their responses.
Helprin realized how drastically different this generation is from those before it. The Creative Commons movement and the copyright abolitionists, like the rest of their generation, were educated with a modern bias toward collaboration, which has led them to denigrate individual efforts and in turn fueled their sense of entitlement to the fruits of other people’s labors. More important, their selfish desire to “stick it” to the greedy corporate interests who control the production and distribution of intellectual property undermines not just the possibility of an independent literary culture but threatens the future of civilization itself.
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Top Customer Reviews
In case you aren't familiar with Helprin's "controversy," it concerns his defense of U.S. copyright, which extends for 70 years after the author's death. That is, if you write and publish a book, you receive royalties during your lifetime and your designated estate receives them for seventy years afterward--which differs from "public domain" books, in which no royalty is paid to anyone, and the publisher reaps all the profits.Read more ›
by: Mark Helprin
Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 2009, 232 Pages
by: Samuel A. Nigro, M.D.
Mark Helprin is worried about the impact of low standards of discourse, especially the loss of “copyright” on our culture due to the demonic stealing of minds by the increasing misuse of computer based electronocelluloidprint technology.
It [psychotheft or digital barbarism] produces mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down; Slurpee-sucking geeks who seldom see daylight; pretentious and earnest hipsters who want you to wear bamboo socks so the world won’t end; women who have lizard tattoos winding from the naval to the nape of the neck; beer-drinking dufuses who pay to watch noisy cars driving around in a circle for 8 hours at a stretch; and an entire race of females, now entering middle age that speak in North American chipmunk and seldom makes a statement without, like, a question mark at the end? (Pg. 57).
Such is the entertaining erudition in this book, as the author makes the case for support of copyright laws of all things! I cannot believe I read a book about such a boring and esoteric topic and was so royally entertained.
To make his case that copyrights should be maintained and extended for the benefit of authors, readers, and the culture itself, Helprin inserts many vignettes each worthy of long lasting preservation. For example, his prized professor at Harvard, who selected him for individual tutoring from hundreds of applicants, stopped the one-on-one dogmatic teaching when Helprin interrupted the professor in mid-sentence saying, “Look, I don’t claim to be intelligent, it is not my strength.” Astonished, the professor asked “What is your strength?Read more ›
Helprin wrote a New York Times editorial that encouraged Congress to extend the validity of US copyrights. He was then vilified and attacked, online, by a cadre of anti-copyrightist true believers. What's worse, many of these anti-copyrightists were...wait for it...uncivil, and their grammar was approximate at best.
Digital Barbarism is the sputtering cri de coeur through which Helprin processed the psychic trauma of this event. It's also his intellectual riposte from the unassailable high ground of print. Half the book is about the value of copyright as a social institution, and half is about the debasement and coarsening of public discourse wrought by the Internets.
My basic complaint is that neither of these points is an argument that needs making. As Helprin points out, the arguments for abolishing copyright are largely specious, and only a small minority of the public cleaves to this perspective (as least, once you factor out the rabble's bleating attempts to justify their own music piracy). The combined weights of history, international conventions, and corporate financial interests are firmly aligned against the abolition of copyright, and the chance of anti-copyrightist thinking making its way into public policy is virtually nil.
Helprin only perceives it as a clear and present danger because of his painful drubbing at the hands of the Internet trolls.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was not only an informative read but the writing was enjoyable as well. I agree with the author's ideas and this is a very compelling manifesto for the preservation of... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Brad Teare
This book is the worst. he makes interesting points, which gets lost in his writing style, because he developed a new genre of non-fiction: Stream of consciousness non-fiction. Read morePublished on May 21, 2014 by Brett Currier
He confuses copyrighted works with real property, a common tactic of those wanting to extend copyright. Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by jay Johnson
Mr. Helprin gives us pause. When we step out of the busy bustle and examine modern life, we see that something is lost. Read morePublished on February 17, 2013 by JR
This book reminds me of some of Chesterton's apologetics. Not all of the arguments are water-tight. Read morePublished on February 8, 2013 by RCH
For those familiar with Helprin's fiction, this book will provide a fascinating insight to understanding the passions of those stories. Read morePublished on July 22, 2012 by Christopher Adams
Mark Helprin's 'Winter's Tale' is one of my favourite novels of all time. I've read it at least a dozen times. So I respect the man's abilities. Read morePublished on November 29, 2011 by Schmadrian
I love Mark Helprin! He has an amazing way with words that is both engaging and informative. He's also brilliantly humorous.Published on April 5, 2011 by thebstt
Who would have thought that a book about copyright (and other things) could be so absorbing and a pleasure to read? Part of this is, of course, due to Mr. Read morePublished on January 19, 2011 by shiftingsandy