News & Reviews

When Copyright Walked the Plank

Posted: Mar 04, 2010

But why is Johns talking about a history of piracy, as opposed to a history of intellectual property law? According to him, the modern concept of intellectual property did not even exist prior to the mid-19th century, by which point, he says, there had already been 150 years of piracy. More pointedly, he argues that virtually all the central principles of intellectual property were developed in response to piratical acts. It is conflict over piracy, and the measures taken against it, he says, that forces society to define and defend, adapt or abandon, strongly held ideals of authorship, public discourse, science and dissemination of knowledge. Piracy is, from this perspective, central to the emergence of the modern information society.

This is a rather interesting take on matters. And Johns sets out to demonstrate the truth of it in a dense and detailed episodic history, rich in context, full of arcane facts and venerable arguments that have continuing resonance in the present.

From The Globe and Mail‘s review of _piracy.

“Read the review”: