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Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture [Kindle Edition]

Tarleton Gillespie
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner, ICA 2009 Outstanding Book Award given by the International Communication Association. and Winner, 2009 CITASA Book Award given by the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association

While the public and the media have been distracted by the story of Napster, warnings about the evils of "piracy," and lawsuits by the recording and film industries, the enforcement of copyright law in the digital world has quietly shifted from regulating copying to regulating the design of technology. Lawmakers and commercial interests are pursuing what might be called a technical fix: instead of specifying what can and cannot be done legally with a copyrighted work, this new approach calls for the strategic use of encryption technologies to build standards of copyright directly into digital devices so that some uses are possible and others rendered impossible. In Wired Shut, Tarleton Gillespie examines this shift to “technical copy protection" and its profound political, economic, and cultural implications.

Gillespie reveals that the real story is not the technological controls themselves but the political, economic, and cultural arrangements being put in place to make them work. He shows that this approach to digital copyright depends on new kinds of alliances among content and technology industries, legislators, regulators, and the courts, and is changing the relationship between law and technology in the process. The film and music industries, he claims, are deploying copyright in order to funnel digital culture into increasingly commercial patterns that threaten to undermine the democratic potential of a network society.

In this broad context, Gillespie examines three recent controversies over digital copyright: the failed effort to develop copy protection for portable music players with the Strategic Digital Music Initiative (SDMI); the encryption system used in DVDs, and the film industry's legal response to the tools that challenged them; and the attempt by the FCC to mandate the "broadcast flag" copy protection system for digital television. In each, he argues that whether or not such technical constraints ever succeed, the political alignments required will profoundly shape the future of cultural expression in a digital age.

Editorial Reviews


"Gillespie has boldly attempted a broad and deep analysis of copyright that integrates cultural, historical, legal, social, political, and technological perspectives—and he succeeds. This is an unusual, excellent, vitally important, and urgently needed book."
Kirsten Foot, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, University of Washington

"Wired Shut is an important book, essential for those who care about the future of digital technologies and information flows. The societal implications of digital rights management technologies have never been explored this deeply or comprehensively. DRM technologies are neither technological nor economic imperatives, and Gillespie shows that their social costs are avoidable. Bravo!"
Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law & Information, University of California, Berkeley

"Tarleton Gillespie has produced a lucid and essential corrective to the techno-fundamentalism afflicting our discussions of culture, economics, and policy. Wired Shut is instantly one of the most important books about copyright and technology available."
Siva Vaidhyanathan, New York University, author of The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System

About the Author

Tarleton Gillespie is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University, with affiliations in the Department of Science and Technology Studies and the Information Science program. He is also a Fellow with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3314 KB
  • Print Length: 420 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (June 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001D79L9K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,763 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
At first glance, this work will inevitably be taken as a highly technical discussion of what may be simultaneously both the most critical and the most boring issue relating to the impact of the Internet: copyright law. However, Dr, Gillespie, an Assistant Professor of Communications at Cornell University, utilizes the topic to markedly enhance the reader's understanding of a wide variety of topics relating to culture in general, and to digital culture in particular.

The work is also a very welcome one in that the author convincingly shows that the current debate over digital rights, particularly as reflected in long-running discussions of music and piracy, has been very ably shaped and controlled by but one side in the debate, at least at the public level. After reading Wired Shut, any reader is going to be a much wiser consumer of information bearing upon public and legal debates over copyright law, and particularly over the technical fixes, such as digital rights management software and hardware so often said to be the solution to the "problem of piracy.

For a full review see Interface, Volume 8, Issue 2.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Into the Analog Hole March 25, 2008
Author Tarleton Gillespie examines digital developments in the cultural realm bordered by United States copyright law, the content and technology industries, and the marketplace. Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lockdown September 23, 2008
Here Tarleton Gillespie has created the most comprehensive book-length treatment of a topic that is gaining the notice of more and more researchers in intellectual property and technology law. The digital information revolution has made it easier to trade and share cultural items, with the potential to weaken the financial and political grip of the culture industries. While those industries fought back against Napster and similar technologies by claiming that the copyright protections of starving artists were being trashed, here Gillespie shows yet again that in the modern legal and political environment, copyright law has been mutated into a tool for maintaining corporate profitability. Meanwhile, as they complain about unfair public use of digital technology, the culture industries have used that same technology to lock in profits and social controls that are far beyond what copyright law allows.

Gillespie tackles this unwieldy yet crucial subject with a strong backdrop of theories of society and technology, as well as intellectual property law. He finds that the corporate lockdown of culture has been achieved not by transparent and reviewable changes in the law and the legislative process, but by technological design that cannot be countered by consumers. Not only is this process undemocratic, it also does not bode well for culture unless creative people choose to remove themselves from market forces (actually anti-market politics) over which they have less and less input.

The only real problem with this book is not the strength of the argument, but readability.
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More About the Author

Tarleton Gillespie is an associate professor at Cornell University, in the Department of Communication and the Department of Information Science. His current research examines the sociological implications of online media platforms and their search algorithms, particularly for how they shape the contours of public expression and knowledge. He is the co-editor of Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society (MIT Press, 2014) and the author of Wired Shut: Copyright and the Shape of Digital Culture (MIT Press, 2007).


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