How to Fix Copyright Hardcover – Dec 5 2011
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"How to Fix Copyright is full of smart, sensible ideas." --The Wall St. Journal
"A book that is incandescent in every sense of the word...How to Fix Copyright is a superbly argued, enraging book on the state of copyright law today." -- Boing Boing
"William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and one of America's foremost experts on copyright law, offers an insightful, reasonable series of fixes to our increasingly outmoded copyright system. But perhaps the author's greatest triumph is that he makes his complex subject seem familiar and even entertaining. In well-written, easily digestible sections, Patry puts the complex legal, procedural, and constitutional underpinnings of copyright law in context with the rapidly evolving, tech-fueled lives of creators and users. Insightful, impeccably researched, and prescriptive, Patry's vision of copyright should resonate with today's creators - and infuriate yesterday's media and entertainment conglomerates." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
About the Author
William Patry is Senior Copyright Counsel at Google Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Now, with How to Fix Copyright, Patry builds upon his prior work and includes various ideas and starting points for solutions. No, as he points out in his forward, he does not extract an over-simplified bullet-point list of action items at the end of the book. Such an approach would be silly and unproductive, given the complexity of the problems and would give a false impression that Patry has (or possibly could) provide simple, pat or "finished" solutions to all of the problems in copyright law. The suggestions are, rather, discussed throughout the book and at the very least provide a helpful starting point for working on the identified problems.
Patry has a true talent for taking highly technical legal issues and writing about them in an engaging way that people, lawyer and non-lawyer alike, can understand. Anyone who has read his more technical legal treatises or knows his other work is aware that as a legal scholar of (and participant in) the development of copyright law Patry knows more about the history and working of copyright than just about any other living person. Even so, Patry is willing to admit that his views on various issues have changed over time, as he has continuously re-examined and tested them. Consequently, his views do not fall neatly on either side of the increasingly polemic public arguments about copyright law. This is exactly why his work is so valuable (and unique).
Of course, precisely because he does not fit neatly into either side of the polemic, he is often the subject of ad hominem attacks from both sides. You will see some of them among the Amazon reviews, notably from individuals who work for the content owner industries (one is a publisher and the other runs a digital right management company and also serves as an expert witness for music, motion picture and other big content companies). One thing about the review of Patry's books is that you can usually tell which ones you should ignore by the amount of vitriol or condescension in them. If you are interested in thinking about the hard issues related to copyright law and have an open mind, ignore the copyright maximalist industry trolls and read this book. It is bound to change the way you think about copyright law, and as Patry points out, changing your mind is the best way to prove you have one.
Mr. Patry argues that copyright laws have been subverted by entrenched interests. To fight this he offers a simple solution: any proposed changes to these laws must be backed by empirical evidence. You want to extend the term of protection because you claim that by doing so more works will be created? Prove it. You want to fight peer to peer networks because they cost jobs? How many? Where is the evidence?
For Mr. Patry a copyright system for the XXI century is one that helps authors get paid and allows the consumers to copy, adapt and remix the work. In that way, both the author and the public will be benefited by the law. In order to achieve this, Mr. Patry proposes shorter term of protection, more formalities in order to claim protection and a complete renovation -and extension- of the legitimate uses of protected works.
The author is not always fair with traditional gatekeepers like publishing houses, studios, etc. It is true that they, more than anyone, are responsible for the archaic copyright laws that we have to live with. But it is also true that they continue to provide a valuable service to creators and that they have being doing this for a long time.
As the copyright system is more or less the same throughout the world this book is a must read in the US or in Argentina. And as Mr. Patry has an agile prose and illustrates his opinion with interesting facts, lawyers and laymen will enjoy and find this book useful.
In HOW TO FIX COPYRIGHT, Bill Patry answers hundreds of questions like this, combining his profound knowledge of copyright law with a limitless appreciation for all forms of culture. The result is a devastating indictment of how Hollywood and the record industry have generated a legal regime that crushes the ability of writers and artists to do what great creators have always done -- draw on existing culture to create new works.
This is a superb book that deserves a wide audience.
Too bad this book isn't it.
The title promises much but the book delivers not much of anything. In fact, apart from a little teaser in the introduction, you have to wait until p. 176 to get any actual ideas about how the system should be reformed. They aren't bad ideas -- shorten the term of copyright, make copyright registration mandatory instead of automatic, pass strong orphan works legislation, etc. -- but little that we haven't heard before from Lessig, Litman, Vaidhyanathan, and various others. There's periodic talk about how copyright is necessary to ensure that content creators get paid, but little about how to fix the system so that this actually happens -- just a lot of material about how the system is unfairly tilted towards the interests of major media companies.
Yet there is one really excellent idea in the book: whatever changes are made to the copyright system, they should be made on the basis of hard evidence (rather than "faith") about how the proposed changes will improve how the system meets its objectives of maximizing the creative works available to the public by providing incentives to content creators. Patry's absolutely right! Unfortunately he offers little advice about *how* such hard evidence is to be obtained. There have been many studies on this subject; most are either methodologically lacking or horribly biased. How we get rid of these defects would have been a far more worthwhile use of the remaining pages in this than the copyleft truisms that occupy them.
The "evidence" presented is fatally wounded by a rather strict music industry-wide perspective. In the author's arguments, individual artists exist only as part of the stable of big distributors. He pays only awkward lip-service to literature. Art and photography are largely ignored.
William Patry frequently whispers that he thinks copyright is valuable, while loudly presenting evidence that copyright ought to be abolished, but without actually saying that it should. It's all terribly one-sided, and with anything one-sided, neither informative nor illuminating. Reading "How To Fix Copyright" feels like being hammered with propaganda, though I have no doubt the book will be loved by the already-converted who don't mind some extra preaching. This book argues against copyright protection throughout, peppered with denials of doing just that.
He boldly makes the argument that copyright doesn't promote creativity by presenting data so narrow in focus and so biased that it is downright insulting to the creatives. In essence, creative people are creative anyway, they can't help themselves! The unexplored implication here is that even if artists were starving from reductions to their ability to profit from the self-distribution of their work, they would continue making more creations anyway, so why feed the artists? Self-distribution? Oops, that doesn't register for Mr Patry
The author is shockingly oblivious, for a guy who wants cultural practice to completely bend over to technological advances, to the web's as a portal for individuals to broadcast their own work, and profit from this distribution, completely outside of an industrial umbrella. These individuals are the people that need copyright protection (I'm not privy to industry's needs, admittedly). Image copyright barely gets a mention, yet the online world is one where the visual representation of an object is often worth many times more than the object itself.
Even his notions of copying (not related to the music business) are outdated. The internet has created the image as a product, and with that, the viewing of an image as consumption of that product. While I do agree with the author that the making of physical copies for personal use is harmless, as they do not compete with the profitable online distribution and consumption of these images, the copying of the same content for further broadcast on the internet itself does harm self-publishers, and hurt their search engine rankings. You'd think someone so in love with information technology would pause to consider the consequences of "copied content" penalties imposed by search engines on artist website traffic and visibility, outside of the copyright implications. None of these considerations enter the author's radar - maybe he still thinks that photographers make all their money from licensing to Vogue and National Geographic.
The author has the gall to make the economic argument that copyright protection represents a deadweight loss to society, like monopolies do. If that's even true, the deadweight "gain" from removing copyright is from robbing individuals of their intellectual property and eroding at their ability to make money from it. Conveniently, no self-sustaining self-publisher has been consulted in the writing of this book.
In summary, the author's arguments are too focused on the music industry and aggregated distribution of intellectual property, based on antiquated business models, misses the boat on how self-publishers derive incomes on the internet, fails to give artists a voice, and beats the point that copyrights are hurting us all with biased data while pretending to be unbiased.
Zero stars from me.