From Publishers Weekly
Vaidyanathan, a professor at the School of Information Studies of the University of Wisconsin and frequent NPR commentator, details the specious ideological evolution of copyright from a set of loose policies intended to encourage cultural expression into a form of property law (now codified in the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 2000) that functions as a seal on creative works. In prose remarkably free of legal and academic jargon, Vaidyanathan begins with a concise, well-paced history of copyright from the framing of the Constitution through the literary world of Mark Twain and the advent of music sampling. The book is surprisingly entertaining, as Vaidyanathan deftly weaves a wide array of episodes from popular culture into a cogent examination of both the creative process and the laws and commercial interests that process dovetails with, then closes with a synthesis and a stern warning for the digital age. Through a combination of copyright laws, contract law and technological controls, Vaidyanathan asserts that corporate control over the use of software, digital music, images, films, books and academic materials. But copyright law, he argues, was designed to be flexible, and this elasticity is essential for the cultural vibrancy and political balance of our democracy. The argument is compelling. In the age of Napster, digital piracy may be the cause clbre, but this well-crafted and important book shows that there are graver concerns for the public in the entertainment industry's effort to tighten its grip on intellectual property. (Oct.)Forecast: Copyright used to be of interest only to a gaggle of Hollywood lawyers, but with the advent of technologies like Napster, it has become an issue of major importance to many more. This book is simply the best on the subject to date, and it should receive widespread attention. Random House is publishing a book on a similar subject by the Microsoft trial expert Lawrence Lessig in November, which will only further heighten interest.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
The author, a media scholar and cultural historian, presents a reasoned and compelling argument for "thin" copyright policy. Vaidhyanathan traces the evolution of copyright law, arguing that it has come to restrict creativity and enjoin cultural expression that arises outside of white American and European traditions. He begins his look at the history of the law with the story of Mark Twain's call for perpetual copyright and its influence on the current author-centered view of the rights to creative works. He continues with interesting examples of recent contests involving property rights to film and music, the details of which illustrate the tangle of interests that is created by law, technology, and culture. Well researched and thoughtfully presented, this is important for most academic and public libraries and essential reading for the library community. Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach LLP, Rochester, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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