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Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture Hardcover – 11 Feb 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (11 Feb. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471679275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471679271
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.7 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,341,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

"Anyone who cares about protecting the vitality of art and democratic culture in the digital age should read this important book." — Pete Seeger The stories would seem silly, embarrassing, or flat–out hilarious, if they weren′t so frightening: ASCAP trying to charge the Girl Scouts for the rights to sing songs around a campfire; J.R.R. Tolkien′s estate threatening to sue a children′s entertainer for calling himself "Gandalf the Wizard Clown"; the J.M. Smucker Company accusing a competitor of infringing its patent on a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And, if you want to poke fun at Mickey Mouse, Barbie, or Miller Lite, you′d better have a battery of lawyers to back you up. In Brand Name Bullies, David Bollier reveals the countless ways in which creativity, innovation, and free expression in American culture are under relentless assault from a new and rapacious breed of corporate bullies. He offers scores of examples of how copyright and trademark owners are using political influence, high–powered attorneys, and out–and–out intimidation to expand their control over our culture. Bollier argues that the free flow of knowledge and ideas is crucial to creativity and progress in every field. Yet this essential ability to share and build upon the work of others is being stifled, marginalized, and criminalized by the forces of privatization. He cites numerous outrageous claims of "ownership" to all sorts of images, words, musical notes, letters, and even smells. Did you know that it is illegal to name a sporting event the "Gay Olympics" or a portable toilet business "Here′s Johnny!"? The drive to copyright and trademark virtually everything has a powerful impact on public discourse as well. Bollier uncovers attempts to lock up sports scores, bestseller lists, historic facts, and even Martin Luther King Jr.′s "I Have a Dream" speech. Beware of using the phrase "Freedom of Expression"! A Massachusetts college student has already applied for and received a registered trademark for those words. Brand Name Bullies makes a powerful case that the rapid and ongoing expansion of "intellectual property rights" is squelching creativity and limiting free expression. It prevents the creation of new music, art, and literature, and it inhibits new scientific research and business investment. This highly readable and chilling exposé sounds an urgent wake–up call for everyone who values our culture and wishes to keep the public domain out of the hands of the privatizers.

From the Back Cover

Critical Acclaim for David Bollier′s Silent Theft "Provocative. . . . always on target." —Newsweek "This beautifully written, carefully argued book shows how little we learned from the past. Free and open resources have always been central to creativity and growth; Bollier shows how in a range of important contexts, free and open resources are being enclosed, to the benefit of the corporate class, and burden of Americans generally." —Lawrence Lessig, author of Free Culture "Get[s] at what I think is the fundamental, primary political issue that can be the underlying value for regenerating progressive politics in our country, and that value is the common good versus private greed." —Jim Hightower, The Texas Observer "Silent Theft raises the kinds of questions that Washington typically represses. The book broaches issues that very likely are going to drive the next big turn of the political wheel. Silent Theft confirms the brooding sense, shared by many, of a system out of control." —The Washington Monthly "Bollier sees a relentless commercial assault on what he calls ′the commons,′ resources that should be free to all but, increasingly, are being co–opted for the corporate good." —Business 2.0 "Bollier′s handling of this complex set of issues is both deft and straightforward. The more people who read Silent Theft, the better our world." —Norman Lear

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Savin on 25 April 2005
Format: Hardcover
A surprisingly clear and enlightened account of the issues concerning intellectual property regulation from the pen of one of the founders of Public Knowledge. Bollier's account of the Industry's drive to control the culture, although sometimes controversial, is always inspiring. The value of the work lies in its power to convey, from a laymen's perspective, the sense of importance surrounding the legal issues presently at stake in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Contrary to a number of works in print, the author decided not to focus only on digital copyright, but rather on intellectual property rights in general and this makes his work all the more interesting.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Exposing copyright's crazier side 19 Feb. 2005
By J. D. Lasica - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For the past few years, intellectual property law has been the playground of lawyers, geeks and scholars. Now comes <a href=[...]>David Bollier</a> to explain why this seemingly arcane field should matter to the rest of us.

In "Brand Name Bullies," the author of <a href=>Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth</a> is back with a painfully comic look at how big corporations are bullying the little guy and locking down culture with the backing of one-sided copyright, patent and trademark laws.

Bollier has written a darkly funny, accessible account of horror stories and outrages both large and small. A few years back, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers send out letters to 288 camps in the American Camping Association, demanding that Brownies and Girl Scouts stop singing copyrighted songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Row, Row, Row" unless the camping groups ponied over thousands of dollars in licensing fees.

The press had a field day with the story. Pro basketball player Shaquille O'Neal offers to pay a camp's royalties for 10 years. BMI offered to license its 3 million songs to the Girl Scouts for nothing. Duly chastened, ASCAP backed down.

Some of these issues - such as mash-ups, fan fiction, The Grey Album or the Eldred decision - will be familiar to those who have followed the recent shenanigans in IP law. (Indeed, as I write this, I'm listening to John Coltrane's My Favorite Things - a melody that would be outlawed had it been recorded today.) But Bollier's chief purpose here is to introduce these stories to a wider audience. Few of the tales have the happy ending that the Girl Scouts enjoyed.

For example, remember how a zillion TV stations used to air Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life around the holidays? That was before Spelling Entertainment entered the picture. Even though the film's copyright owner failed to renew the copyright on the film, Spelling argued that the film remained under copyright because the short story that was the basis for the film and its musical score were still under copyright protection, and so the film had not entered the public domain after all. Spelling warned broadcast stations that they risked legal action if they aired the 1946 Jimmy Stewart classic without permission - and payment.

The book brims with such tales. In 1998 Fruit of the Loom threatened a Web parodist for suggesting alternative names for the underwear, such as "Fruit of the Loins" and "Banana in my Briefs." Bollier describes how Netizens forced the company to retreat:

Rather than capitulate to Fruit of the Loom's intimidation, Styn fought back. Within forty-eight hours he had contacted more than a hundred independent Web publishers who pledged to support his cause. Banner ads reading "Freedom of speech doesn't end at an elastic waistband-Support your right to be funny" and "Rotten Fruit" images appears on hundreds of Web sites, along with links to the Prehensile Tales site.

Styn estimates that fewer than 1,500 people had seen the "Meat of the Loom" parody in the eight months it had been posted online. But within two weeks after he launched his Web crusade against Fruit of the Loom, more than 250,000 visitors had check out [...]

What to do about all this? Bollier proposes "a new language of the commons." He writes:

"At bottom, the challenge is not just to shore up the boundaries of fair use, the public domain, and other public rights, important as those rights are. What is truly needed is a new discourse that can escape the restrictive intellectual categories of copyright and trademark law."

He nails it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Exposing copyright bullies 25 April 2005
By Jessica C. Friedman (tech savvy) - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've recently begun reading up on the subject of corporate efforts to take control of our culture,. While the material here may be familiar turf to many , it was eye opening to me. I had no idea that copyright law had been distorted and bent against the interests of those it was meant to serve: the public (for it's a bargain between the creator and the public, not simply a property right interest, as many people commonly assume).

Bollier's book brings these issues to light in an entertaining, enlightening way. Imagine, ASCAP going after the girl scouts for singing songs around the campfire! Imagine charging royalties for croonng "Happy birthday" at a public event.

If you're not familiar with these issues, "Brand Name Bullies" is a good primer. Read up, get educated, get mad, then fight back!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Freedom of expression? Oops! Thats copyrighted! 8 Dec. 2006
By R. A. Barricklow - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book shows copyright industries- film, music, publishing, information- routinely raid the public domain for material in the classic Disney modus operandi- to privitize. Then they and the likes of Microsoft & McDonalds use their battalions of lawyers to use trademarks as blunt instruments in cultural intimidation and censorship. Free speech and artistic expression be damned! Add a little chicanery and you have automatic retroactive copyright protection to works THAT WERE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN! Copyright & trademark are essentially monopoly rights. Now they are monopolizing cultur. Trademark law made sense in the context of the market place, they make much less sense now that the market place has become our culture.
Also the law criminalizes the very kinds of inquiries that help identify security weaknesses and openly discuss ways to fix it. Many foreign scientist now avoid travel to the U.S. in fear they would run afoul of these laws. The laws that empower content industries to utterly control the sale AND AFTER MARKET USES of their works.
Did you know the song "Happy Birthday" is copyrighted?
Perhaps the best part of this book is the humorous way it approaches the subject.
The Fruit of the Looms case is worth the read alone.
The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be
-Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Well done and highly recommended!
We Are Not Free... 28 Mar. 2009
By booksy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I thought I knew a little bit about copyright and trademark law, but reading this book really showed me how these laws, set up originally to help individuals, are now squelching everything from artists' creativity to new medical research. This book shows what can go wrong when big corporations and other money-hungry entities start trying to own everything we do under the guise of copyright/trademark law.

The book is written in an entertaining manner and is an easy read. Some of the stories are amazing, like the copyright on "silence" and the patent on a method of swinging on a swing. I was especially struck by the point the author makes that creativity and research are being stifled by all these crazy laws, and the way these companies want to "own" our very actions.

Although entertaining, ultimately this book depressed me a little, because I see this problem getting worse as time goes on.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
My Opinion (C) (R) tm 4 May 2005
By CaliforniaMDS - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The topic of this book is incredible. Hard to beleive it's gone this far. It boggles the mind.

That said, I found large parts of the book to be repetitive, and didn't really give enough background/details on the various examples. I would have liked some more finger pointing, but as it stands, I'll boycott Ralph Lauren-Polo for being a putz about the name!

Recommended reading, but wish the writing was a bit better.
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