Copyrights and Copywrongs by Siva Vaidhyanathan
The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity (Fast Track Books)

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Copyright reflects far more than economic interests. Embedded within conflicts over royalties and infringement are cultural values about race, class, access, ownership, free speech, and democracy which influence how rights are determined and enforced. Questions of legitimacy of what constitutes  intellectual property  or fair use, and of how to locate a precise moment of cultural creation have become enormously complicated in recent years, as advances in technology have exponentially increased the speed of cultural reproduction and dissemination.In Copyrights and Copywrongs, Siva Vaidhyanathan tracks the history of American copyright law through the 20th century, from Mark Twain's vehement exhortations for  thick  copyright protection, to recent lawsuits regarding sampling in rap music and the  digital moment,  exemplified by the rise of Napster and MP3 technology. He argues persuasively that in its current punitive, highly restrictive form, American copyright law hinders cultural production, thereby contributing to the poverty of civic culture.In addition to choking cultural expression, recent copyright law, Vaidhyanathan argues, effectively sanctions biases against cultural traditions which differ from the Anglo European model. In African based cultures, borrowing from and building upon earlier cultural expressions is not considered a legal trespass, but a tribute. Rap and hip hop artists who practice such borrowing by sampling and mixing, however, have been sued for copyright violation and forced to pay substantial monetary damages. Similarly, the oral transmission of culture, which has a centuries-old tradition within African American culture, is complicated by current copyright laws. How, for example, can ownership of music, lyrics, or stories which have been passed down through generations be determined? Upon close examination, strict legal guidelines prove insensitive to the diverse forms of cultural expression prevalent in the United States, and reveal much about the racialized cultural values which permeate our system of laws. Ultimately, copyright is a necessary policy that should balance public and private interests but the recent rise of intellectual property  as a concept have overthrown that balance. Copyright, Vaidhyanathan asserts, is policy, not property.Bringing to light the republican principles behind original copyright laws as well as present day imbalances and future possibilities for freer expression and artistic equity, this volume takes important strides towards unraveling the complex web of culture, law, race, and technology in today's global marketplace.Illuminating. Bookforum (April June 2002) It has taken lawyers 200 plus years to morph copyright law from the balanced compromise that our framers struck to the extraordinary system of control that it has become. In this beautifully written book, a nonlawyer has uncovered much of the damage done. Copyrights and Copywrongsis a rich and compelling account of the bending of American copyright law, and a promise of the balance that we could once again make the law become Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School and author of Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace Siva Vaidhyanathan has done a big favor for the academic and library communities. In this book, he has spelled out in clear, understandable language what's at stake in the battles over the nation's intellectual property. The issues brought forward are critical to the future of scholarship and creativity. Librarians and academics are wise to purchase this book and add it to their  must read  lists Nancy Kranich, President, American Library Association, 2000 2001 Copyrights and Copywrongs is an urgent information-age wake-up call to a public cocooned in belief that  copyright  is a seal and safeguard for consumers and producers of culture ware.

 

About Siva Vaidhyanathan

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Siva Vaidhyanathan has written for The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His work has been profiled in The New York Times and on National Public Radio. Vaidhyanathan is a cultural historian and media studies scholar who has taught at the University of Texas, Wesleyan University, and New York University. He currently is associate professor of Culture and Communication at New York University.
 
Published August 1, 2001 by New York University Press. 255 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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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 t...

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