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Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates Paperback – January 15, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0226401195 ISBN-10: 9780226401195 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (January 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226401195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226401195
  • ASIN: 0226401197
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The recording industry's panic over illegal downloads is nothing new; a century ago, London publishers faced a similar crisis when pirate editions of sheet music were widely available at significantly less cost. Similarly, the debate over pharmaceutical patents echoes an 18th-century dispute over the origins of Epsom salt. These are just two of the historical examples that Johns (The Nature of the Book) draws upon as he traces the tensions between authorized and unauthorized producers and distributors of books, music, and other intellectual property in British and American culture from the 17th century to the present. Johns's history is liveliest when it is rooted in the personal—the 19th-century renegade bibliographer Samuel Egerton Brydges, for example, or the jazz and opera lovers who created a thriving network of bootleg recordings in the 1950s—but the shifting theoretical arguments about copyright and authorial property are presented in a cogent and accessible manner. Johns's research stands as an important reminder that today's intellectual property crises are not unprecedented, and offers a survey of potential approaches to a solution. 40 b&w illus. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Adrian Johns's learned and witty book Piracy is... a compelling cultural history of the paired ideas of piracy and property from the seventeenth century to the present.... The best history takes readers from a familiar present to a strange past, and delivers them back to a present that can be seen in new ways. Piracy is that sort of history." (Nature) "Piracy shows us how the very notion of intellectual property - and its sharp division into the fields of patent and copyright - was created in response to specific pressures and so could be modified dramatically or even abolished." (Times Higher Education) "Invaluable.... Johns concludes in this challenging, richly detailed, and provocative book, that the choices we make about how to balance property, creativity and privacy will define 'the contours of creative life' for the twenty-first century." (Washington Post) "Johns's research stands as an important reminder that today's intellectual property crises are not unprecedented, and offers a survey of potential approaches to a solution." (Publishers Weekly)"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Gkiely on April 5, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Adrian Johns' PIRACY is a wide-ranging and expansive view of a subject that is of intense interest as books, music and movies shift to digital dissemination. Johns' great gift is his ability to present the historical context of the piracy of intellectual property and he offers a sweeping narrative that's full of really interesting tidbits. Ultimately, Johns positions today's piracy of digital media within the context of a never-ending struggle between commerce and creativity. A great book that will be read and argued for many years.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David S. Wellhauser on June 12, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Dry as dust but extremely informative and leaves the reader with a solid historical foundation of Piracy. A little conservative but when dealing with Piracy I'm inclined to agree. Worth your time...but like all University of Chicago texts this one will test your commitment to the process.

Highly recommended for the committed reader and amateur historians.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. P. R. Lewis on May 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
In normal usage, a pirate is a blackguard who attacks ships and kills at will. But there is another way in which the word is used, someone who copies a book or product for personal gain. That is why we have laws protecting authors (copyright) and inventors (patents), so that they may be encouraged to write or develop a new product or process. In this magisterial book by Johns, the author traces the history of piracy of books and products through the ages, but especially from the revolutionary development of printing by Gutenberg in about 1450. Before him, books were handwritten by scribes and were very expensive, but after, they became cheaper, and printed books heralded a new age of knowledge. With popular books, the question of reprinting cropped up, and who owned the right to reprint a work. In Britain, the right came to be owned by the bookseller, and a system of registration evolved with The Stationers Hall, one of the guilds of the City of London. The monopoly was broken effectively by extensive piracy of books in the Ireland and Scotland, followed by the new United States. Indeed, the USA pirated not just books, but industrial products as it tried to build a flourishing manufacturing base. Such amazing but forgotten topics are dealt with in forensic detail by Johns, who is clearly a master of the subject. Copyright theft was widespread during the Victorian period, as a result of the second revolution in printing, the use of the steam-powered printing press, which produced books at a fraction of previous prices. Authors like Charles Dickens suffered at the hands of the pirates in the USA, who often edited the original text in unusual ways, not approved by the author.

After agreement on an international system of copyright in the late Victorian period, matters were stabilized.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this is a supplementary text for my intellectual property class. I am independently interested in intellectual property and Johns does a superb job of laying out the historical context for piracy in America today. I think that what it really missed was sensitivity to other cultures. Chinese and Japanese ideas about intellectual property were touched on briefly but not satisfactorily. He perfunctorily showed the ways that Chinese and Japanese companies treated IP, but I would have liked him to go into a little more depth.

He writes beautifully, although a friend of mine with a bachelor's in comparative literature pointed out that Johns has a quasi-formulaic writing style. It's true. The last few chapters were excellent, especially as he delved into relatively current events. I would recommend this book to a friend interested in the legal evolution of intellectual property laws.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an archivist and historian, I found the author's research to be detailed and through (though not necessarily exhaustive). While it's true that this book is quite a beast of a volume to get through, the course the book takes as its narrative is complex and well thought-out.
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