Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle
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A thoroughgoing survey of copyright, intellectual property and other thorny legal issues of the age of information.

Generally, problems of copyright are first-world problems—and problems they are, if often manifested in incremental ways. Remember, for instance, the battle over colorizing classic black-and-white films a couple of decades ago? As Baldwin (History/UCLA; The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike, 2009, etc.) notes, the issue hinged less on aesthetics than the wishes of the producers—that is, the studios and corporations that owned adaptation rights—to reauthorize copyright. This was easier to accomplish in the corporation-friendly “Anglo-Saxon world” than in Europe “because the film copyright owner tended to be the corporation that made it, not the director.” This explains the growing clout-wielding of corporations. Baldwin coherently covers the distinctions among economic rights and “moral” rights, the latter of which have been more difficult to establish, and he examines these rights against the background of a variety of legal traditions—surprisingly among them that of Nazi Germany, which placed a premium on “spiritual values above modern materialism” and gave unusually comprehensive protection to authors (non-Jewish authors, anyway). Baldwin’s discussion of contending traditions and rights carries over into exquisitely latter-day concerns, especially the ever more common question of plagiarism, which, he says, is “increasingly seen as a mere peccadillo”—unless, of course, it’s the intellectual property of the big corporations that is being ripped off. Ironically, as he observes, though the right to ownership of such property is enshrined in this country, it has been extended again and again against the intentions of the Founders, who saw it as being of limited duration against the common good of the “educational aspirations of a fledgling democracy.”

Scholarly but accessible and lucid; essential for students of modern intellectual property law and of much interest to a wide audience of writers, journalists, publishers and “content creators.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-691-16182-2
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2014


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