Monday, December 21, 2009

Don't Panic! | Peer to Peer Review; Library Journal, 12/17/09

Barbara Fister, Library Journal; Don't Panic! Peer to Peer Review:

Barbara Fister takes a look at William Patry's new book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

"William Patry has a few things to say about pirates in his new book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. The well-known blogger, senior copyright counsel for Google, and author of the seven-volume definitive work, Patry on Copyright, steps back from purely legal analysis to examine the super-heated rhetoric surrounding copyright battles...

This book examines the rhetorical framing devices used by corporate interests to expand copyright laws. The purpose of this framing is simple: "to get what you want by defining yourself positively and by defining your opponent negatively." Nothing works better than inducing a moral panic, the systematic distortion and exaggeration of a problem in order to make it more compelling, and in the process demonizing those defined as deviant, making them appear much more threatening than they are...

was demonized in the past in ways that seem absurd in hindsight. Jack Valenti (yes, the same Jack Valenti who for years predicted the complete collapse of the film industry if pirates aren't punished) testified before Congress in 1982 that Hollywood's future "depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine." Which machine is that? "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston Strangler is to the woman home alone."

Balancing act
Patry's book unpacks the rhetorical devices used in copyright debates, but he does not oppose copyright. "For policy makers and the public, copyright is not a winner-takes-all proposition,” he writes. “Copyright is a system to advance public interests; those interests can be furthered by a copyright regime tailored to provide sufficient incentives to create new works. But at the same time we must recognize that the public interest is genuinely harmed by overprotection."

Though academic librarians are understandably caught up in the issues surrounding scholarly communication, a system in which much of the content is publicly funded and the authors are primarily rewarded by exposure, not protection, we still have a stake in popular culture and in the ways that copyright as it is defined today thwarts creative expression and hurts innovation. Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is an informative interdisciplinary excursion into the issues that draws on legal, economic, and sociological theories to examine a debate that affects us and our students on a daily basis."

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