Thursday, November 26, 2009

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars by William Patry

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars by William Patry

William Patry focuses on the history of copyright as it pertains to innovation. The copyright wars refers to the dispute between the music corporations and other large corporations and individuals who use digital content. It is the continuing controversy over file sharing, digital downloading, and new formats of content which are bringing change to the publishing, film, and recording industries. William Patry includes a lot of history on technology and copyright. This book is very relevant to what is happening now in the publishing world and the library world.

When William Patry talks about moral panics, he often uses the idea of metaphor; ordinary people being labeled as pirates, highwaymen, or robbers for downloading content. Another metaphor which is quite interesting is the idea of authors birthing their works. William Patry claims that the copyright industry is trying to drum up resistance to change and innovation.

In this book there are many arguments put forth about how copyright should function. It is very much an attempt to persuade the reader that copyright should act and be a particular way. The arguments are very interesting. For example, he argues that copyright is a government program used to ensure that intellectual property benefits the public and authors. He further makes another argument that copyright is not like physical property and must be handled differently.

There are sections on DRM (Digital Rights management) and the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). These are very important because they have created many new issues in copyright like orphan works something that is very convoluted. As part of his going over new legislation, William Patry reminds us that copyright should encourage innovation not prevent it. The United States is falling behind countries like South Korea and Japan. His viewpoint is very much a call for a change in how copyright is currently being done.

This book is published by Oxford University Press. There are extensive notes and an in depth index. He includes many quotes from prominent people in the copyright industry. William Patry is a senior copyright counsel for Google, a practicing attorney, and a professor. This book combines the scholarly with the persuasive quite well.

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