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Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg To Gates [Paperback]

Adrian Johns
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.00
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Book Description

15 Jan 2010
Since the rise of Napster and other file-sharing services in its wake, most of us have assumed that intellectual piracy is a product of the digital age and that it threatens creative expression as never before. The Motion Picture Association of America, for instance, claimed that in 2005 the film industry lost $2.3 billion in revenue to piracy online. But here Adrian Johns shows that piracy has a much longer and more vital history than we have realized - one that has been largely forgotten and is little understood. "Piracy" explores the intellectual property wars from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. Brimming with broader implications for today's debates over open access, fair use, free culture, and the like, Johns' book ultimately argues that piracy has always stood at the center of our attempts to reconcile creativity and commerce - and that piracy has been an engine of social, technological, and intellectual innovations as often as it has been their adversary. From Cervantes to Sonny Bono, from Maria Callas to Microsoft, from Grub Street to Google, no chapter in the story of piracy evades Johns' graceful analysis in what will be the definitive history of the subject for years to come.

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Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars From Gutenberg To Gates + How to Fix Copyright + Copyright's Paradox
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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (15 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226401195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226401195
  • ASIN: 0226401197
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 450,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Adrian Johns's learned and witty book Piracy is... a compelling cultural history of the paired ideas of piracy and property from the seventeenth century to the present.... The best history takes readers from a familiar present to a strange past, and delivers them back to a present that can be seen in new ways. Piracy is that sort of history." (Nature) "Piracy shows us how the very notion of intellectual property - and its sharp division into the fields of patent and copyright - was created in response to specific pressures and so could be modified dramatically or even abolished." (Times Higher Education) "Invaluable.... Johns concludes in this challenging, richly detailed, and provocative book, that the choices we make about how to balance property, creativity and privacy will define 'the contours of creative life' for the twenty-first century." (Washington Post) "Johns's 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)"

About the Author

Adrian Johns is professor of history and chair of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Copyist heaven or hell? 29 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In normal usage, a pirate is a blackguard who attacks ships and kills at will. But there is another way in which the word is used, someone who copies a book or product for personal gain. That is why we have laws protecting authors (copyright) and inventors (patents), so that they may be encouraged to write or develop a new product or process. In this magisterial book by Johns, the author traces the history of piracy of books and products through the ages, but especially from the revolutionary development of printing by Gutenberg in about 1450. Before him, books were handwritten by scribes and were very expensive, but after, they became cheaper, and printed books heralded a new age of knowledge. With popular books, the question of reprinting cropped up, and who owned the right to reprint a work. In Britain, the right came to be owned by the bookseller, and a system of registration evolved with The Stationers Hall, one of the guilds of the City of London. The monopoly was broken effectively by extensive piracy of books in the Ireland and Scotland, followed by the new United States. Indeed, the USA pirated not just books, but industrial products as it tried to build a flourishing manufacturing base. Such amazing but forgotten topics are dealt with in forensic detail by Johns, who is clearly a master of the subject. Copyright theft was widespread during the Victorian period, as a result of the second revolution in printing, the use of the steam-powered printing press, which produced books at a fraction of previous prices. Authors like Charles Dickens suffered at the hands of the pirates in the USA, who often edited the original text in unusual ways, not approved by the author.

After agreement on an international system of copyright in the late Victorian period, matters were stabilized.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A CLOGGED KITCHEN SINK 29 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Its one of those academic works that throws everything and anything into the mix which make it more of a beginning reference work than anything else. I would not rely upon it due to at least one aspect of the topic with which I am familiar where the author has cobbled together a storyline which is incorrect, due in part to his own reliance upon another work of an academic nature which has its own problems, But because it contains so much information, I am not sure that the author understands the topic, and therefore this is not the sort of book that a sane individual would pick up and read from cover to cover. That's why it is handy as a reference work - using its index as a means to find material.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important overview of the historical effects of the piracy of intellectual property 5 April 2010
By Gkiely - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Adrian Johns' PIRACY is a wide-ranging and expansive view of a subject that is of intense interest as books, music and movies shift to digital dissemination. Johns' great gift is his ability to present the historical context of the piracy of intellectual property and he offers a sweeping narrative that's full of really interesting tidbits. Ultimately, Johns positions today's piracy of digital media within the context of a never-ending struggle between commerce and creativity. A great book that will be read and argued for many years.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only For Serious Readers 12 Jun 2010
By David S. Wellhauser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Dry as dust but extremely informative and leaves the reader with a solid historical foundation of Piracy. A little conservative but when dealing with Piracy I'm inclined to agree. Worth your time...but like all University of Chicago texts this one will test your commitment to the process.

Highly recommended for the committed reader and amateur historians.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Jolly Roger 29 May 2012
By Dr. P. R. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In normal usage, a pirate is a blackguard who attacks ships and kills at will. But there is another way in which the word is used, someone who copies a book or product for personal gain. That is why we have laws protecting authors (copyright) and inventors (patents), so that they may be encouraged to write or develop a new product or process. In this magisterial book by Johns, the author traces the history of piracy of books and products through the ages, but especially from the revolutionary development of printing by Gutenberg in about 1450. Before him, books were handwritten by scribes and were very expensive, but after, they became cheaper, and printed books heralded a new age of knowledge. With popular books, the question of reprinting cropped up, and who owned the right to reprint a work. In Britain, the right came to be owned by the bookseller, and a system of registration evolved with The Stationers Hall, one of the guilds of the City of London. The monopoly was broken effectively by extensive piracy of books in the Ireland and Scotland, followed by the new United States. Indeed, the USA pirated not just books, but industrial products as it tried to build a flourishing manufacturing base. Such amazing but forgotten topics are dealt with in forensic detail by Johns, who is clearly a master of the subject. Copyright theft was widespread during the Victorian period, as a result of the second revolution in printing, the use of the steam-powered printing press, which produced books at a fraction of previous prices. Authors like Charles Dickens suffered at the hands of the pirates in the USA, who often edited the original text in unusual ways, not approved by the author.

After agreement on an international system of copyright in the late Victorian period, matters were stabilized. However, we are now in the throes of a third revolution, digitisation of books, or ebooks. Books can be copied by scanning their contents, and massive projects have been born to digitise all books. While the Gutenberg project only digitises out-of-copyright books, the internet giant Google has been busy digitising in-copyright books without authorisation. A large court case is currently underway in the USA between authors and the company, a dispute yet to be resolved. Meanwhile, internet piracy of ebooks is widespread, especially in countries like Russia and China where the law is weak and vague. Two of my own books have been pirated fopr exmaple, and there seems to be no way of preventing illicit copying. Battles are being fought in other copyright areas such as popular music where downloading is rife among consumers. It makes this book very timely, and no doubt will need to be revised sooner rather than later as the target moves. This book is thus highly recommended if you want to understand the background to the problems of enforcing copyright in the internet world.
3.0 out of 5 stars Interested in IP? You'll like this. 11 April 2013
By Caroline L - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this is a supplementary text for my intellectual property class. I am independently interested in intellectual property and Johns does a superb job of laying out the historical context for piracy in America today. I think that what it really missed was sensitivity to other cultures. Chinese and Japanese ideas about intellectual property were touched on briefly but not satisfactorily. He perfunctorily showed the ways that Chinese and Japanese companies treated IP, but I would have liked him to go into a little more depth.

He writes beautifully, although a friend of mine with a bachelor's in comparative literature pointed out that Johns has a quasi-formulaic writing style. It's true. The last few chapters were excellent, especially as he delved into relatively current events. I would recommend this book to a friend interested in the legal evolution of intellectual property laws.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Researched Monograph 14 Aug 2012
By T. G. Cline - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an archivist and historian, I found the author's research to be detailed and through (though not necessarily exhaustive). While it's true that this book is quite a beast of a volume to get through, the course the book takes as its narrative is complex and well thought-out.
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