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Who Owns Culture?: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law (Rutgers Series: The Public Life of the Arts) Paperback – June 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Susan Scafidi is a member of the law and history faculties at Southern Methodist University. She has taught at the University of Chicago Law School, Saint Louis University School of Law, and most recently, the Yale Law School.
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Product Details

  • Series: Rutgers Series: The Public Life of the Arts
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (June 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813536065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813536064
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,131,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Bert Krages on July 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book thoughtfully explores the interesting issue of to what extent the law should protect cultural products and customs. Current intellectual property law is very much oriented towards the protection of rights of individual entities and largely ignores the creations that are attributable to the efforts of cultural groups. A good portion of the book examines various aspects of cultural life and the internal and external ramifications to individuals, communities, and societies. It then explores how cultural products might be protected depending on factors such as the unity of the cultural entity and the nature of the product. Moreover, the book explores culture from perspectives ranging from indigenous peoples to skateboarders and its ideas encompass both traditional and emerging cultures. If you are looking for a book that adds a new angle to the ongoing debate about the role of intellectual property protection within society, this would be a good one to read.
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Format: Paperback
There's a very simple reason why cultures don't have ownership in the manner the author is suggesting- cultures are not power structures. Individuals, corporations and governments can claim ownership, because responsible parties are capable of exercising authority in a way that cultures fundamentally cannot. What exactly is a culture? Because the author has not adequately defined culture, she has failed to notice that cultures are not institutions of power. For two extreme examples, let's take Korean culture. On both sides of the North/South divide, Koreans agree that they are part of one single culture. But since 1945 there have been two opposing governments claiming legitimacy over the entire peninsula. Who exactly gets to decide questions of ownership in that situation? In the second case, with American ethnic and racial groups. There is one common political body for racial and ethnic groups (Native-American tribes are sort of an exception). Where does one culture end and another one begin? This is a struggle that cultures constantly negotiate and there is never homogeneity or a finished "whole" that one can point to. When two white Americans invented the airplane, there was a legal patent protection system that gave them ownership over their intellectual property. But would it have been possible or desirable for the white race or for American culture as a whole to claim ownership over the airplane? For an excellent critique of the type of thinking that went into this book I recommend Lawrence Cahoone's Cultural Revolutions: Reason Versus Culture in Philosophy, Politics, and Jihad.
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