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Cultures of Copyright

Contemporary Intellectual Property


Edited By Dànielle Nicole DeVoss and Martine Courant Rife

The symbols, signs, and traces of copyright and related intellectual property laws that appear on everyday texts, objects, and artifacts have multiplied exponentially over the past 15 years. Digital spaces have revolutionized access to content and transformed the ways in which content is porous and malleable. In this volume, contributors focus on copyright as it relates to culture. The editors argue that what «counts» as property must be understood as shifting terrain deeply influenced by historical, economic, cultural, religious, and digital perspectives.
Key themes addressed include issues of how:
• Culture is framed, defined, and/or identified in conversations about intellectual property;
• The humanities and other related disciplines are implicated in intellectual property issues;
• The humanities will continue to rub up against copyright (e.g., issues of authorship, authorial agency, ownership of texts);
• Different cultures and bodies of literature approach intellectual property, and how competing dynasties and marginalized voices exist beyond the dominant U.S. copyright paradigm.
Offering a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective, Cultures of Copyright offers readers – scholars, researchers, practitioners, theorists, and others – key considerations to contemplate in terms of how we understand copyright’s past and how we chart its futures.


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Part One: Cultural Backdrops


• P A R T O N E • Cultural Backdrops • C H A P T E R O N E • The Limits of Ownership in the United States Aaron Barlow hat are the cultural limits of intellectual property in the United States today? What are the cultural prerogatives of authorship? The former have expanded, while the latter, paradoxically, have shrunk. Thanks to digital technologies that may be changing, but the powers behind expanded IP ownership may prove stronger than digital possibilities for circum- venting them. Authorship has been subsumed by ownership, and ownership is being subverted (for now) by the ease of digital copying and alteration—and au- diences are now inclined to see themselves as owners, too. In this chapter, I trace the backgrounds to the questions above. Admittedly, changes in technol- ogies of copying and in cultural attitudes toward created works are forcing North Americans to re-evaluate their assumptions about creators and their works, making complete answers, for now, impossible. The Author as Troubled Owner Authors have always been protective of their work. Chaucer, complaining to his scrivener, berated him for “to wryten newe” rather than to “wryte more trewe” (p. 650). By the time of Melville, the scrivener’s profession was on the way to becoming antique. After all, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” was published in 1853; the direct ancestor of the twentieth-century typewriter, which put the nail in the profession’s coffin, was introduced in 1868, just 15 years later. In many ways, part of the scrivener’s function had already...

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