Friday 31 August 2012

US copyright law in all its simplicity

Copyright Law is one of the shortest and neatest titles on copyright law that I've seen in a little while -- and there is an admirable tidiness about this book.  The authors, Jane C. Ginsburg and Robert A. Gorman, are not unknown in intellectual property circles and have long passed the point at which they need to prove themselves. In some respects, the mark of a genuine scholar is not the degree of complexity with which a subject can be analysed but the degree of clarity and simplicity with which often complex notions can be conveyed to the intelligent but unfamiliar reader. This phenomenon is well known in other spheres of human endeavour, in tales of how Giotto (some say Michelangelo) was able to draw without assistance a perfect circle, or of the precision required of the cook to execute the perfect soft-boiled egg.  Sadly, in intellectual property circles too few people -- professors, judges, legislators and now PhD students -- have appreciated the power of this message. But for anyone wanting an accessible yet thought-provoking introduction to US copyright law, which is literally a law unto itself, this book is is definitely more Giotto than Gormenghast.

The book's web-blurb explains what this book seeks to achieve:
"The text provides a clear and thorough exploration of the doctrinal and policy issues in American copyright law in a style accessible to both new and advanced intellectual property students, as well as to practitioners. The book covers every major topic in basic copyright courses: the history of copyright, ownership and duration, formalities, exclusive rights of the copyright holder, fair use, civil and criminal enforcement of copyright law, and federal preemption of state law. Beyond that, the authors address the major new issues that have emerged over the past two decades, including the rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act regarding circumvention of technological protections of copyrighted materials, and the principles of secondary liability, both in their basic form and as developed through application of the DMCA to internet service providers. Moreover, attention is given to the important points at which U.S. copyright law intersects with international intellectual property treaties.

Each chapter includes concise summaries and discussions of significant cases, ideal for gaining a complete overview of the doctrine and of the statutory provisions, those that are written with a broad brush as well as those written with painstaking detail. Finally, the book suffuses this doctrinal and statutory analysis with illuminating discussions of the public-policy issues -– from the earliest and most fundamental to those that are at today’s cutting edge -- that help inform and shape the development of copyright".
This book, which part of the publishers' Concepts and Insights series, certainly lives up to this description.

Bibliographic data. publisher: Foundation Press/Thomson Reuters. Paperback, xv + 309 pages. ISBNs 1599412519 and 13: 9781599412511. Web page here.

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