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The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind Paperback – January 26, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"In this delightful volume, Professor Boyle gives the reader a masterful tour of the intellectual property wars, the fight over who will control the information age, pointing the way toward the promise-and peril-of the future. A must read for both beginner and expert alike!"-Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia

"Boyle is one of the world''s major thinkers on the centrality of the public domain to the production of knowledge and culture. He offers a comprehensive and biting critique of where our copyright and patent policy has gone, and prescriptions for how we can begin to rebalance our law and practice. It is the first book I would give to anyone who wants to understand the causes, consequences, and solutions in the debates over copyrights, patents, and the public domain of the past decade and a half."-Yochai Benkler, Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard Law School

"Boyle has been the godfather of the Free Culture Movement since his extraordinary book, Shamans, Software, and Spleens set the framework for the field a decade ago. In this beautifully written and subtly argued book, Boyle has succeeded in resetting that framework, and beginning the work in the next stage of this field. The Public Domain is absolutely crucial to understanding where the debate has been, and where it will go. And Boyle''s work continues to be at the center of that debate."-Lawrence Lessig, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Stanford Law School and author of Free Culture and The Future of Ideas -- Lawrence Lessig

"[T]his book is remarkable in many ways. . . I welcome this clarity and the sheer enthusiasm and humor of this simply delightful book."-Edward J. Valauskas, First Monday -- Edward J. Valauskas "First Monday" (01/05/2009)

About the Author

James Boyle is William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law. He lives in Durham, NC.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300158343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300158342
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Jamie Boyle's work -- both academic and activist -- has define the field of copyright, or copy-left, or copy-fight. His earlier book, Shamans, Software and Spleens : Law and the Construction of the Information Society, was the book that got me to recognize how enormously important these issues were. This book, his latest, delivers a beautiful and mature understanding of the state of this "war."

The book maps perfectly the history of these debates. But best in my view is the way it capture the current salience as it relates to the current version of digital technologies. His understanding of the "mash-up" problem, and the potential for a new digital literacy is better than anything else out there just now. And as the current Chairman of Creative Commons, his understanding of free, voluntary alternatives to the current mess is better than (just about) anyone.

There are of course a million critical problems that America faces. But the issues that Boyle is writing about are high among the list of those critical problems. Special interests have radically distorted the best in America's tradition. And if you track Boyle's views from the beginning of these battles to today, you will see that he has from the beginning understood what the world now is just beginning to recognize. He is, in my view, America's foremost scholar and teacher in this field. This book is an enormous contribution (but just a small token of what he's done).

Buy it for yourself and 10 of your best friends. Send a couple to the RIAA and MPAA.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine it is 1991. Your task is to produce the greatest reference work in history. It must cover everything from the best Thai food in Durham to the history of the Blue Dog coalition. Will you hire an army of experts and editors to produce an encyclopedia? Or will you wait for an unorganized multitude of volunteers aided by search engines to create a world wide web of information?

I would have bet on the experts. James Boyle, Duke University law professor and author of The Public Domain, would have, too. The last time he consulted a print encyclopedia was 1998. You? The internet, of course, changed everything. But: "In the middle of the most successful and exciting experiment in nonproprietary, distributed creativity in the history of our species, our policy makers can see only the threat from `piracy.'"

Take an MP3. Boyle argues that it is fundamentally different than physical property, like a car. My use of an MP3 does not interfere with yours. We can both listen to it. No property is lost if it is copied or shared. It is not like stealing your car. You have an MP3, and I have an MP3. No one has "lost" anything. Except the content provider's (an insidious term if ever there was one) opportunity for profit. BMG and Sony, naturally, equate file-sharing with theft. They argue that file-sharing means no creators are compensated, meaning there is no incentive to create. No one creates for free, they say. A one-word retort: Wikipedia.

The recording companies use copyright law to protect their ability to profit in a specific, proprietary way.
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Boyle's latest book, Public Domain, is a fascinating read. For a copyright lawyer like myself, PD is a god-send. Digital copyright and its implication on free-speech, innovation, access to information/useful writting etc. is a rapidly expanding area of scholarship; litteratures out there are vast and intimidating, enough to put newcomers off eventhough the subject's basic premise could be easily grasped by all. Boyle managed to provide a guide which gives a big picture of what was then, what is now and what will happen next. Just reading this one book will put you in touch with practically all the latest (and disturbing) issues regarding the digital copyright movement. I'm actually teaching my IT law class from it. The endnotes at the back are so informative and useful; they are the perfect guide for readers who want to delve more deeply into any particular topic.

This book also provides everything you will ever need to know about intellectual property, with out going into unnecessary details. It covers philosophy of IP, the historical development (both in common-law world and in the continent), visions and warnings of Jefferson and Macaulay. It also captures the world before and after Sony-Betamax and encapsulates the mind-set of entertainment industry and their dislike of new business practices. I particularly like Boyle's discussion about why a pro-consumer decision like the Sony case is so important as a rare "counter-example" of technological threat argument and why Grockster and Napster failed to reach the same result: it's all about politics of the cartel dinosaurs; no one is really fighting for the consumer. It's simply logical and thus hard not to believe in what he wants to say.

Information here is just abundant.
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