Tuesday 30 August 2011

Book reviews

Here are a couple of new titles which touch on copyright topics, brought to your attention for your interest, amusement and discernment ...

Infringement Nation: Copyright 2.0 and You, by John Tehranian, is one of the most startling titles to grace a book on copyright law as one might encounter on the timelessly respectable shelves of publishers Oxford University Press.  Its author, currently a tenured Professor of Law at Chapman University where he serves as Director of the Entertainment Law Center, is no mere academic: he is also a founding partner of Southern California entertainment and IP firm One LLP which specialises in high-profile infringement litigation.

So what might one find in a book with a title like this? OUP explains:
"... Infringement Nation presents an engaging and accessible analysis of the history and evolution of copyright law and its profound impact on the lives of ordinary [American] individuals in the twenty-first century. Organized around the trope of the individual in five different copyright-related contexts - as an infringer, transformer, pure user, creator and reformer - the book charts the changing contours of our [American] copyright regime and assesses its vitality in the digital age. In the process, Tehranian questions some of our  [here: not only American] most basic assumptions about copyright law by highlighting the unseemly amount of infringement liability an average person rings up in a single day, the counterintuitive role of the fair use doctrine in radically expanding the copyright monopoly, the important expressive interests at play in even the unauthorized use of copyright works, the surprisingly low level of protection that American copyright law grants many creators, and the broader political import of copyright law on the exertion of social regulation and control.

Drawing upon both theory and the author's own experiences representing clients in various high-profile copyright infringement suits, Tehranian supports his arguments with a rich array of diverse examples crossing various subject matters - from the unusual origins of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the question of numeracy among Amazonian hunter-gatherers, the history of stand-offs at papal nunciatures, and the tradition of judicial plagiarism to contemplations on Slash's criminal record, Barbie's retroussé nose, the poisonous tomato, flag burning, music as a form of torture, the smell of rotting film, William Shakespeare as a man of the people, Charles Dickens as a lobbyist, Ashley Wilkes's sexual orientation, Captain Kirk's reincarnation, and Holden Caulfield's maturation. In the end, Infringement Nation makes a sophisticated yet lucid case for reform of existing doctrine and the development of a copyright 2.0. 
Readership: Lawyers, law students, legal academics, other students, sophisticated general readers with an interest in culture, technology, law and the entertainment industries".
Books on copyright these days are very much like those doctor-and-nurse romances that used to be popular in the days when people didn't have to apologise for their poor taste in literature: they all have the same plot and the same ending. You know that, in approximate order, you are likely to encounter an explanation as to what copyright is, a nod to the fact that it was once regarded as serving a useful purpose, an account as to how it no longer addresses the day-to-day life of Joe Citizen even when he's not online or at the end of his hand-held device and how much more so when he is, a damning description of what some rogue personages -- usually collective ones -- do with the copyright when it's in their hands, concluding with the wise observation that something ought to be done about it.  Some of these accounts are not great; others bounce along with the vigour of a John Grisham novel and also with the promise that, whatever twists the plot takes, the ending you hope for will generally be found in that place where endings are found.  Given this author's experience, erudition and literary skills, this book is definitely at the upper end of this genre and will not disappoint.  Indeed, it makes the reader wonder how we even put up with this tiresome inconvenience. This makes it all the more surprising to discover the existence of another book, from the stable of the same publisher, that shows just how effectively a combination of contract and, among other things, copyright law, can be wielded in order to preserve the old order which Professor Tehranian has so deftly painted.

Bibliographic data: xxx + 289 pages. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-19-973317-0. Price: £30.00. Web page here. Eyesight warning: don't do anything that might make you go blind if you propose reading this before it's available in an e-book format where you can adjust the font size on-screen: it's mighty small print for a mighty good read!

Digital Media Contracts, by Alan Williams, Duncan Calow, and Andrew Lee, is about as distant from Infringement Nation as you can manage.  It doesn't even have a pretty cover (but at least the print is big enough to read -- and even has CAPITALS for IMPORTANT TERMS used in CONTRACTS ...). Alan Williams is consultant to DLA Piper, a firm in which Duncan Calow is a partner. while Andrew Lee is consultant to the eponymous firm of Andrew Lee & Associates. These good souls are not Infringement Nationalists; they deal in the certainties of done deals, personal and corporate commitments, the nailing down of rights to publish, use, access and share works, among other things. Much of the zone which they inhabit is a business-to-business world, in which there is less scope for humans to be astonished at the unseemly amount of copyright infringement they commit each day.  As the publisher's blurb explains:
"Digital Media Contracts contains a collection of sample agreements, presenting annotated contracts from the digital media industry in typical formats for the industry. Included are agreements for digital downloads, user generated content, social networks, wireless apps and cloud computing [the book is stated to be current to October 2010; the technologies and issues in question appear still to be in current use]. It goes beyond traditional precedents by giving practical, commercially-grounded commentary and background information to assist both readers intending to draft their own documents and those looking for hands-on guidance when reviewing standard form documents received from other parties. Lawyers working in the digital media industry, private practitioners and in-house lawyers will find this work especially useful. Its jurisdictional scope is primarily focused on the UK with comparative comments on similar agreements in the US, with input from lawyers based in the US [This is important not just because so many contract-related issues arise in the US before the corresponding technologies and business arrangements take place in the UK and Europe but because of the temptation to adopt and (mis)adapt US provisions which are not fully understood]. This comprehensive guide will provide practical support in the form of checklists and flow-charts, and will include additional supporting documents such as standard NDAs and sample Heads of Agreement. 
Readership: Lawyers working in the digital media industry, both private practitioners and in-house lawyers; more general commercial lawyers, business development executives and contract managers in companies within the digital media industries. Suitable for those working in UK and US jurisdications".
Bibliographic data: viii + 381 pages. Hardback. ISBN 978-0-19-956220-6. Price: £145. Web page here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it me or would anyone else like a digital version of Digital Media Contracts?