Techdirt Reading List: The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries Of Trans-Atlantic Battle

from the it-never-ends dept

We’re back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.

Sometimes when you’re focusing on the latest fight over copyright, you forget that the same battles have been fought over and over and over again. Peter Baldwin’s book, The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle does a really great job of highlighting how we’re seeing the same battles play out over and over again. We’ve seen this before — when we wrote about The Idealist, a book mostly about Aaron Swartz, the first half is really about historical copyright battles, which are incredibly similar to today’s battles.

Baldwin’s book goes into even more detail on centuries upon centuries of battles around copyright law — what it’s for, what it’s designed to do and the inevitable tensions it runs into as modern technology changes. It also highlights how some of the battles are really cultural and national battles — with ideas around openness and sharing stemming more from the American side, while the stronger focus on making copyright solely about protecting creators coming from a more European tradition. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise — things like the Berne Convention which massively expanded copyrights came from a European push and the US was very late in adopting it. But sometimes people get so focused on the expansion of copyright driven by the US film and recording industries that we forget that they were simply co-opting ideas from Europe. Either way, it’s an excellent read to put more of our copyright wars into context.

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