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.