- Hardcover: 640 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 15, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780226401188
- ISBN-13: 978-0226401188
- ASIN: 0226401189
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates 1st Edition
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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.)
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Top Customer Reviews
I deal with IP issues in my work. I am not a lawyer but I think it would be nice if every lawyer and every law maker, read this book.
We are in an incredibly divisive time with copyright and patents hanging unbalanced in favor of artificial monopolies and at risk of curtailing creativity from art to biotech. These issues deserve much more than the partisan, special interest examination they get from our politicians and lawmakers today. Johns examines the issues dispassionately (unlike Lawrence Lessig's books on the topic - such as Remix - which take a point-of-view; a good one, but sometimes difficult to get both sides of the issues impartially from Lessig).
Johns' book is well-organized for the general reader, progressing through time and topic starting with a gripping and completely mind-bending story of identity theft which befell NEC in 2004; it's an inspired beginning if ever there could be one about piracy! Johns starts with the invention of piracy – as a truly man-made phenomenon, its inseparable connection with enlightenment, print and eventually with the making of America. He takes us on a time travel journey into a very modern and very contentious issue: patents in pharmaceuticals. Only after making us completely aware of how disliked patents had been in a 17th century England trying to throw off the remnant symbols of monarchy – patents had essentially been royal favors sometimes crudely employed and brutally enforced.
Then we are guided through the terrain which uneasily and artificially separated patents from copyrights – intellectual work, or art from artisanship. Towards the eventual emergence of international protections – still only partially employed at the convenience of the state in question and the politics of the day. For instance, I was able, in the mid-80’s, to buy any Western movie or any music in Saudi Arabia for pennies on the dollar from the booming Arab pirate industry. I suppose in principle, along with the gold jewelry I bought my sister, I could have been arrested at the USA Customs border; that I wasn’t, demonstrates another compelling bit of Johns' story of how difficult it is to control piracy – a topic handled with fascinating stories in The Pirate Hunters quite as relevant and twice as worrying today.
With a nice interlude into broadcasting and the formation of the BBC and the eventual squeezing hobbyists out of the communications business, Johns guides us into the 20th century and towards the ideal of an open society and what that meant, means and might mean: ‘Major corporations owed their existence to’ the ‘creation, purchase, control, and manipulation’ of patents. I guess you could say that about the RIAA too.
Johns brings us into the digital economy showing us how Piracy has now criminalized citizens in their own homes – once the doorstop of the law and the shelter of the pirate. Although there is a fun treatment of phreaking, fuddling and hacking, it’s too brief, too superficial; I’d like to see Johns’ deep, historical treatment extended into the digital era much more thoroughly. What about sample-based music, the contingency of copyright, the patent trolls, hacking and snooping, what about News of the World or Obama's administration evesdropping on Merkel, what about a deeper treatment of software? There's so much more which in Johns' capable pen could bring interest and enlightenment to these topics.
All in all, an amazing accomplishment of a book and a thoroughly important read.
Adrian Johns. Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (Kindle Locations 5081-5082). Kindle Edition.
Highly recommended for the committed reader and amateur historians.
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.