Law

Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

March 10, 2010
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Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

Toronto’s The Globe and Mail published a review of Adrian Johns’s Piracy in Monday’s edition of the paper. In the review Grace Westcott takes special note of Johns’s unique approach to the history of intellectual property debates— a feat he accomplishes by focusing his narrative away from the victims of piracy, to the look more closely at the roles of the pirates themselves. As Westcott writes: Why is Johns talking about a history of piracy, as opposed to a history of intellectual property law? According to him, the modern concept of intellectual property did not even exist prior to the mid-19th century, by which point, he says, there had already been 150 years of piracy. More pointedly, he argues that virtually all the central principles of intellectual property were developed in response to piratical acts. It is conflict over piracy, and the measures taken against it, he says, that forces society to define and defend, adapt or abandon, strongly held ideals of authorship, public discourse, science and dissemination of knowledge. Piracy is, from this perspective, central to the emergence of the modern information society. Read it online at The Globe and Mail website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

March 1, 2010
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The Supreme Court and the Chicago gun ban

With the Supreme Court due to hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging Chicago’s ban on handguns in the city, Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight aired the second of a two part special on the history of Chicago’s ban this morning. On the program contributor Robert Loerzel walks through some of the major events—including the tragic assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ensuing riots on Chicago’s South Side, the assassination of J.F.K., and even the attempted murder of Pope John Paul II—that helped to gain public support for Chicago’s handgun ordinance. But despite the mountains of negative publicity that guns have received, especially in the nation’s urban centers, the question of whether allowing people to own or carry guns deters violent crime still remains. Back in 2000 the University of Chicago Press published one of the most influential and controversial books on the issue, John R. Lott, Jr.’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Slated for an updated third edition later this month, Lott’s book employs some of the most rigorously comprehensive data analysis ever conducted on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws to directly challenge common perceptions about the relationship between guns, crime, and . . .

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Adrian Johns on the Short Stack Blog

February 24, 2010
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Adrian Johns on the Short Stack Blog

Adrian Johns, author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates has written a posting for the Washington Post‘s Short Stack blog. In his post, Johns discusses the blowback that can result from attempts to clamp down on illegal copying: Over the last half-millennium, measures to defend creative property have repeatedly proved counterproductive—not just because individual pirates themselves escaped, but because those measures triggered public reactions against their own proponents. The major transitions that constitute the history of intellectual property itself were repeatedly caused by precisely this kind of reaction. In effect, the present nature of both copyrights and patents is a legacy of this long history of police overreach. For more navigate to the Washington Post‘s Short Stack blog. We also have an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

February 10, 2010
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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

In a recent book review in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian Roy Williams begins by acknowledging intellectual property disputes as one of he most pressing issue of the twenty-fist century. As Williams writes: The laws of copyright, patents and related regimes are notoriously arcane; they are a mystery to most lawyers, let alone the public. Yet intellectual property is integral to some of the curliest issues of the early 21st century: the regulation of biotechnology, the digitisation of news and books, and freer access for the Third World to life-saving drugs, to name just three. To understand contemporary geopolitics, a working knowledge of intellectual property is mandatory. Enter Adrian Johns’s, Piracy: Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, offering readers the definitive historical account of every important IP dispute from the advent of print culture all the way to the present day, augmented by the unparalleled insights of its author. Noting one particularly fascinating example Williams writes: Especially compelling is the detailed account of the emergence of the modern notion of copyright. analyses the central role played by London book traders of the 17th and 18th centuries. Based around Stationers Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral, they made their living selling . . .

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Q&A on intellectual property with the author of Piracy

February 4, 2010
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Q&A on intellectual property with the author of Piracy

Adrian Johns, author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates was recently interviewed by Serena Golden of Inside Higher Ed. In a series of questions that highlight several of the current hot-button issues in the IP debate including biotechnology patents and the Google books settlement, Golden engages Johns in a fascinating conversation that expands upon the historical account of intellectual property disputes found in Johns’s book. A sample from the interview follows, or navigate to the Inside Higher Ed website for the complete article. Q: Which of the current intellectual property debates do you see as most consequential, and why? A: I see two conflicts as especially consequential: the patent struggles in the life sciences, and the copyright furor ignited by the Google Books initiative. In the life sciences, patenting has become a huge issue in several contexts. The pharmaceuticals industry has aroused fierce controversy in the developing world because of what are perceived as inequitable restrictions, agribusiness has generated similarly intense arguments, and biotechnology involves extending IP into the domain of life and its constituents. The stakes for the future of IP here are high because the human consequences are so evident, and the political interests . . .

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Piracy and the history of intellectual property disputes

February 3, 2010
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Piracy and the history of intellectual property disputes

Offering some fascinating insights on one of the most contentious issues in publishing right now, a review of Adrian John’s Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates appeared in the January 21 edition of Abu Dhabi’s The National. Reviewer Caleb Crain writes “by making words, music and images easy to copy and share, the internet may seem to have fractured trust between producers and consumers of culture around the world in a novel way. But in fact, producers and consumers have been in conflict for centuries.” In his new book Johns offers a detailed account of this conflict, from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century, to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. In his review Crain briefly summarizes the history of intellectual property disputes detailed in Johns’s book, and picks out a few details he finds most salient to current debates. From The National: When literary property was abolished in Paris after 1789, cheaply printed, timely, derivative literature flushed everything else out of the marketplace—imagine the final triumph of the Huffington Post over the New York Times. Moralistic bullying failed when 19th-century American reprinters tried to agree not to pirate one another’s piracies. . . .

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The free e-book of the day!

February 1, 2010
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The free e-book of the day!

For the next 24 hours only the University of Chicago Press is pleased to offer the e-edition of Adrian John’s brand new book Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates as a free download from our website. About the book&mdash: “ traces the tensions between authorized and unauthorized producers and distributors of books, music, and other intellectual property in British and American culture from the 17th century to the present. … The shifting theoretical arguments about copyright and authorial property are presented in a cogent and accessible manner. Johns’ research stands as an important reminder that today’s intellectual property crises are not unprecedented, and offers a survey of potential approaches to a solution.” —Publishers Weekly Check back tomorrow for Johns’ previous work, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, (click the link for more about the book), and at the beginning of every month for more free e-books from the University of Chicago Press. Or to browse all our currently available e-books, see our complete list of e-books by subject. E-books from the University of Chicago Press are offered in Adobe Digital Editions format for Mac, PC, and a number of mobile devices such . . .

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The Supreme Court vindicates John Samples

January 21, 2010
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The Supreme Court vindicates John Samples

This morning the Supreme Court invalidated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act) as well as overturning its previous decisions upholding restrictions on corporate spending in political elections. An article in the New York Times states: “The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle—that the government has no business regulating political speech.” Back in 2004 we published The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform by John Samples which made exactly that argument about campaign finance laws generally and the McCain-Feingold Act in particular. Samples argued that restrictions on campaign contributions not only inhibit the exercise of the constitutional right to speech, but that there is little to no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress. And that so-called negative political advertising improves the democratic process. And that limits on campaign contributions make it harder for new candidates to run for office, thereby protecting incumbents. Back in 2004 our copywriters wrote that The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform “defies long-held assumptions and conventional political wisdom.” Let’s now add that it accurately predicted the future. We have an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Gary Becker and Richard Posner on Extension 720

December 14, 2009
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Gary Becker and Richard Posner on Extension 720

Gary Becker and Richard Posner have been offering up some of the most insightful social and political commentary on the internet through The Becker-Posner blog for five years now. Starting back in December of ’04, Becker, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, and Posner, a renowned jurist and legal scholar, (both at the University of Chicago), teamed up to offer their equally learned, but sometimes conflicting insights on everything from the legalization of gay marriage to the sale of human organs for transplant, quickly building a large, and loyal audience. So large, in fact, that in November of 2009 the University of Chicago Press published a “best of” collection of entries from their blog in their new book: Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism. Recently, Milt Rosenberg, the host of WGN radio’s Extension 720 invited the two on the show to discuss their new book, highlighting their pithy commentary on some of the most hot button issues of the day, including the legitimacy of the death penalty, NYC’s proposed ban on trans fats, and illegal immigration. To listen in navigate to the Extension 720 website to stream or download part 1 and part 2 of their conversation or find out . . .

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Tutorials with Becker and Posner

November 10, 2009
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Tutorials with Becker and Posner

Before Freakonomics there was the Becker-Posner blog. Started in 2004 by Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary S. Becker and renowned jurist and legal scholar Richard A. Posner, the Becker-Posner Blog was unique in the still-developing blogosphere of the mid-aughts in that it offered a reliable source of lively, thought-provoking commentary on current events, its pithy and profound weekly essays highlighting the value of economic reasoning when applied to unexpected topics. Now in their new book Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism Becker and Posner collect some of their best work from their blog, offering uncanny analyses on everything from gay marriage to proposed bans on trans fats. Recently reviewer John Kay summarized their analysis of New York’s 2006 trans fat ban for a review of the book in the Financial Times, detailing Becker’s insightful economic critique of the issue and Posner’s libertarian counterargument. In the end, as Kay notes, Becker and Posner may not deliver easy answers—especially when these two intellectual powerhouses go head to head on an issue—”but the book is like a series of tutorials from a good teacher, and the object of a good tutorial is not to tell the student the answers.… The objective is . . .

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