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The Copyright Wars:
Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle
Peter Baldwin

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format]


"Well-researched . . . full of informative and occasionally amusing history on international treaties, ideas about authorship, and why the French get so angry when we colorize old movies. A book like Baldwin's is long overdue . . ."--Robert Levine, Columbia Journalism Review

"[A]n epic history of copyright and authors' rights."--Mike Holderness, New Scientist

"An excellent, scholarly study of what has gone wrong with American copyright law in the last half-century that will contribute to the ongoing debate on reforming the law."--Library Journal, starred review

"I hardly exaggerate when I say that the story leaves the reader breathless. It is not only that the range of the author's erudition is as broad as the back of a Volga boatman, but that this book succeeds in reflecting, in its tiny puddle of a specialized subject, much of what has happened in Western thinking since the French Revolution. I cannot do it justice in a brief review, because every page is a veritable kaleidoscope of historical fact, astute ratiocination, and counterintuitive paradox, a pattern as dazzling as it is bewitching."--Andrei Navrozov, Chronicles

"Baldwin's detailed scholarship is second to none, and he offers a meticulously researched summary and synthesis of these debates that manages to make sense out of three centuries of legal and political struggle. The work manages to make this struggle accessible and comprehensible to a broad audience, without sacrificing any of the important nuance and context that an understanding of the issues requires."--Hans Rollman, PopMatters

"Copyright Wars is worth a read. It reminds readers that whereas many of today's copyright issues have to do with new technology, they have deep historical and cultural roots. And the book offers one of the best collections of copyright anecdotes."--Economist

"[A] superb book for the general reader."--Barney Sherman, Iowa Public Radio

"Peter Baldwin brilliantly unpicks the history, in this well-written, highly readable book. . . . I never expected to call a book on copyright legislation 'fascinating'!"--Tom Wilson, Information Research

"Baldwin has a case to make. . . . an original and counterintuitive argument that could, if accepted, change the shape of conflicts over intellectual property (IP) in generaI. . . . If he is right, then the way in which we see the politics of globalization in the information economy needs to be radically revised. . . . Baldwin makes use of sources in all these countries’ languages that will be largely new to the Anglophone community. Thanks to this, he is able to bring a valuable and genuinely new perspective to bear on the topic. . . . In the end, this is an important book that deserves the attention of readers interested in cultural policy, globalization, and IP debates. The argument it makes is significant and deserves to be addressed, not so much by historians as by legal experts, digital activists, authorities in international politics, and even negotiators engaged in the nitty-gritty of trade diplomacy."--Adrian Johns, H-Net

"[A] superbly researched, well-written tract on how copyright developed in England, France, Germany, and the US with a view to the moral rights of authors of creative products, the role of the potential audience, and how legislation reflects the extent of the coercive ability of the state to limit an author’s personal expressive ability."--Choice

"Peter Baldwin’s The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle . . . traces the swings of power and interest between authors and their audiences in the long struggle between copyright and access. It sparkles with Baldwin’s characteristic qualities: caustic and epigrammatic prose, a forensic comparative approach to differences between the US and Europe, scorn for vested interests and sloppy thinking. It has a special relevance today when corporate rights-owners are seeking in law to extend their ownership of culture in perpetuity and digital activists (and, now, academics) are fighting for open access."--Peter Mandler, History Today

"Copyright Wars is an enlightening read . . . it provides three centuries of context to today’s battles of further harmonization of copyright law in the European Union, litigious heirs of copyright works and the attempts of policymakers and judges to play catch-up with the latest technology. With MEP Julia Reda’s Report on the Information Society Directive 2001/29 even suggesting copyright registration, it may be that Baldwin’s historical analysis is in fact an indicator of the future direction of international copyright regulation."--Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice

"The Copyright Wars is an exhaustively researched epic journey through the international, historical, and present-day relationships among society, authors, disseminators . . . and the public. It presents not only the main legal developments in sweeping history over hundreds of years . . . but also a dazzling assemblage of anecdotes, historical context, quotes from obscure writings, miniutiae and ‘you are there’ reports on benchmark cases. Perhaps because he is a nonlawyer writing a book of social/legal history, Baldwin is free to observe and write more like a time-travelling historical journalist, unafraid to use catchy phrases or to challenge his readers."--California Lawyer


"From Kant and Fichte to Wikipedia’s protest shutdown and the Swedish Pirate Party, and from international copyright in the Confederacy to moral rights in Fascist Italy, Baldwin offers a riveting historical account of copyright in the Anglo-American and Continental European spheres that becomes an indispensable guide to understanding today’s struggles over copyright and international trade treaties."--Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School

"Why does current U.S. copyright sentiment accord more with the views of Jack Valenti than of Thomas Jefferson? Understanding the fault lines of copyright in the digital age means returning to the debates of the 1830s, if not to even earlier struggles at the Enlightenment's dawn. Nobody could tell the tale with more consummate skill than does Peter Baldwin in this tour de force of cultural history."--David Nimmer, author of Nimmer on Copyright

"I thought I knew what the fuss over copyright was, but this smooth, clear, and well-written book opened my eyes to completely different ways of balancing the benefits of authors vs. audiences. I was astonished to learn that today's die-hard advocates in the digital realm had their exact antecedents hundreds of years ago. And that the divergence between Europe and America reflects not geography, but a profound riddle: who should benefit most, creators or society? Despite its intensely researched and sourced text, this book is a delight to read, with news on almost every page. It is not about the tiny laws of copyright; it’s about the meaning of copyright in a big way."--Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick, Wired Magazine

"Baldwin deftly shows that the crucial copyright controversies of today are part of a much older set of controversies and that understanding today's situation is vastly enhanced by understanding its history. This is a must read."--Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia

"Peter Baldwin's The Copyright Wars spans centuries and continents to reveal the background of today's battle over open access to information. Anyone who wants to understand how we arrived at this conflict should read this remarkable book."--Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive

"The creation, distribution, and enjoyment of copyrighted works often result in conflicts based on where you stand, including which side of the Atlantic Ocean you stand on. Peter Baldwin ably demonstrates why this is the case as he carefully charts the centuries-old tensions between Anglo-American and Continental European approaches to copyright."--William Patry, author of How to Fix Copyright

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File created: 6/26/2015

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