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COPYRIGHT'S HIGHWAY by Paul Goldstein

COPYRIGHT'S HIGHWAY

From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox

By Paul Goldstein

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8090-5381-0
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 Despite the zingy subtitle, this is a rather bland, diffuse history of copyright law's response to developing technology. Goldstein (Law/Stanford Univ.) rarely strays from the pedagogue's lectern as he surveys 300 years of copyright law in Europe and the US. He introduces the law by focusing on a recent front-page case: the suit by Acuff-Rose, a music publisher, against the rap group 2 Live Crew for making use of Roy Orbison's song ``Oh, Pretty Woman'' without the publisher's permission. Goldstein explains the Supreme Court's holding that 2 Live Crew's parody of the song constituted a ``fair use'' of the original by ``transforming'' it for artistic reasons. Even digitally sampling the original version without permission did not violate copyright laws as long as the sampling contributed to the artistic effect. This case provides a useful starting point for a discussion of how technological innovations such as sampling and film colorization have challenged the integrity of works of art, raising issues of ownership and remuneration. But Goldstein soon bogs down in a protracted analysis of a lawsuit by a medical publishing house against the government for photocopying scholarly articles without payment or permission. This case--Williams & Wilkins v. The United States--is significant, but it's difficult to imagine the general reader sustaining interest in its tortuous litigation or in the cranky negotiations that led to the Berne Convention's enactment of international copyright standards. Goldstein is more successful at quick takes on big cases like Sony v. Universal, in which the Supreme Court held that home videotaping did not infringe the copyrights of film studios, and Apple v. Microsoft, in which a federal judge held that copyright law did not extend to the ``look and feel'' of the Macintosh graphical user interface. Better for its discussion of cutting-edge high-tech legal issues than for its cumbersome forays into history.