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Digital Barbarism

3.09 of 5 stars 3.09  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  27 reviews
World-renowned novelist Mark Helprin offers a ringing Jeffersonian defense of private property in the age of digital culture, with its degradation of thought and language, and collectivist bias against the rights of individual creators.

Mark Helprin anticipated that his 2007 New York Times op-ed piece about the extension of the term of copyright would be received quietly,
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 28th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published April 1st 2009)
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Excellent argument in favor of copyright; even for extending copyright into perpetuity of descendants. I believe if you own a house you should be able to pass it to your kids without burdening them with the taxes; perhaps a tax scale that takes into account the income of the recipient as well as the value of the inheritance.
The argument is not perfect - as others have noted, the author takes some time to throw in all kinds of opinions about other issues, usually with a conservative viewpoint.
Chris Barnett
I made a real effort to give this book the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible, but I found it really hard to read. I felt a desire to believe that it is propaganda created, however indirectly, by the copyright industry, but I know it probably isn't. Mark Halprin is most likely just expressing his own strong opinions.
The first chapter seemed at first to be mere whining about the effects of technology and nostalgia for a slower past, but Halprin does acknowledge that there's no turning b
Ryan Alvarado
Sarcastic book, fun to read. Unfortunately, his arguments are weak and he doesn't address many of the opposing argument's points. There is more to copyright debate than Mark Helprin speaks about and he addresses only what I consider to be "common sense" when it comes to copyright. The book is more of a ramble against the teenage and internet culture (two cultures that are completely separate, but Helprin combines throughout the entire book). Overall, this is the basic argument that all pro-copyr ...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
This is that book that you love to hate! Mark Helprin is such a nasty, mean windbag in his book Digital Barbarism. As a tattooed woman (2 strikes against me), I'm apparently just one of the millions of riffraff he loathes! However, although it KILLS me to admit it, he does raise a couple of interesting questions about Intellectual Property. So, 2 stars.

But ultimately Helprin is still wrong. The evil that he imagines himself to be fighting when he attacks Creative Commons is a cartoonish villain:
This book is poorly argued. It displays a complete lack of understanding of the movement it claims to describe and oppose, not to mention Internet culture. In fact the whole argument is based on the largest straw man this side of the Burning Man festival. I want desperately to hate it, but the prose is beautiful. How could I hate any book that, in discussing a youthful pilfering of corn from an Iowa farmer uses the phrase: "he had thousands of acres of corn and, perhaps like Van Gogh, would not ...more
Sam Schulman
Sadly underserved by his publisher in its name, it's not at all a long argument about copyright, but really a memoir intended to explain by example why one writes, and how only one's own individual experience in life can produce writing that is original and unique and one's own (and here he returns briefly to the copyright question and the nature of Internet writing vs. real writing.
Writers should read it.
Greg Pettit
Mark Helprin is a novelist who wrote this screed in defense of copyright. His style is excessively erudite and pompous, with almost as many commas as nouns. Unfortunately, I agree with him. It would be so much easier to be turned off by his style and simply dismiss him as an ass.

In arguing for copyright, he branches into other more philosophic ideas like individualism versus collectivism. I found the book to be very interesting, but his voice was off-putting.

Apparently, this book originated fro
Joe Haynes
I agree with first review of this book. This seems to be more of an old man's rant against teenage angst "You damned kids get off my lawn!" and not a treatise against the destruction of the laws that protect works of art.

Arguing against technology using the laws and notions of the past makes no sense because laws and notions of the past are irrelevant when it comes to protecting works of art. The Creative Commons movement is at least an inclusive group that seeks to make sense of how technology
I might have actually agreed with his arguments but he spent so much time convincing the reader that he was an old man I forgot what his original thesis was.

Helprin is a great writer, who has become very cranky. I understand that when the web attacks it can be viscious, but you must learn to ignore the trolls.

At times I felt as if I had fallen into the middle of an Ayn Rand novel, though Helprin does seem to have more wit. Early on the put downs of the netizens were humorous, but they become old
I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite Helprin's controversial views and crotchety tone. Here's why: 1. It's extremely well-written. Helprin has an impressive vocabulary yet he doesn't write cumbersome, circular sentences. 2. His arguments contain insights so sharp that they leave you questioning ideas you've unconsciously taken for granted. Whether or not you agree with him, you will leave this book feeling more conscious of your own views. I highly recommend it.
This is not just a writer's manifesto but a personal talisman. I would say it's brave, but I don't believe it was an act of bravery for Helprin to write this book. Rather an act of frank and honest devotedness to his work and to the many ideas and ideals he holds most dear. I read this in conjunction with 'The Craftsman' by William Sennett and the two together have given me much pause and direction.
A fun read for those into intellectual property. Love the (c) breaks in the chapters. And I love the quote about lawyers. I didn't think anyone could defend copyright and the lack of intelligent deep discussion on the subject in such an entertaining way. I'd never want him to critique my writing...I have found a new author I like..
Every writer, artist in the world needs to read and heed this wonderful book. Not only is Helprin one of the smartest writers around, he's funny, wise and prophetic too. So seriously, read this book.
Bob Koelle
No one told Mark Helprin to not feed the trolls, so he wrote a whole book, at least in part, to do just that.
This is a response to all the criticism he received to his infamous 2007 New York Times op/ed piece, which advocated lengthening copyrights. The criticism came from sources high and low, but he conflates them all to the lowest denominator, and addresses his critics as if they are all a) products of an educational system which promotes only collaboration, b) uncouthed barbarians of the in
Dan Hokstad
Digital Barbarism is a shot of light against an uncivilized, darkened sky.

Brilliantly written, it is indeed a writer's manifesto. I would not try to interpret its content here, as that has been the most grievous error committed against Mark Helprin over the whole copyright issue; however, let it be known that nowhere in Digital Barbarism does Mr. Helprin write that technology is awful - as a matter of fact, he marvels at it! And he is not asking kids to get off his lawn - rather, he is poeticall
Suzanne Benner
Very interesting. Again, not smart enough to get it all, but really enjoy Mark Helprin's wit and style.
A self-serving screed that grew out of an Op-Ed piece that Helprin contributed to the NY Times re the raid on rights of authors and their heirs to retain copyright on the work. It's a relentless harping on the neanderthals trying to push all intellectual property into the public domain - an interesting discussion if your a first year law student but painful reading.
A year ago, Mark Helprin wrote an essay in the New York Times suggesting a minor extension to an author's right to copyright protection. The negative reaction from liberal bloggers was astounding. He received thousands of e-mails and was viciously attacked as an enemy of free expression, etc. This book is Helprin's response to all that.
I found it too hard to get past Helprin's pretentious writing and continuous insults to even consider his argument for copyright extension. If Helprin is trying to gain supporters for his point of view he should have stuck to the proverb that explains you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
One of my favorite fiction writers of the past 100 years. This is a fine book, and of course well written, but it doesn't hold a candle to the spectacular A Hero of The Great War or the excellent Memoirs form Ant-Proof Case.

I agree with the principles that motivated Mr. Helprin to publish this volume, but I also think that the essays start to ramble and sometimes deviate away from the point.
Steph N
I actually reviewed this for the Suffolk Univerity Law School's Journal of High Technology Law. That review is here -
Helprin is my favorite author, but this treatise against the digital was best left as an op ed.
John Gorski
Excellent! Probably the best piece of modern philosophy I've read recently.
Funny for those of us who blog and endure bizarre responses.
Siscoe Boschman
Siscoe Boschman marked it as to-read
Apr 24, 2015
Rui Feng
Rui Feng is currently reading it
Apr 02, 2015
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Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, “He lights his own way.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case ...more
More about Mark Helprin...
Winter's Tale A Soldier of the Great War Freddy and Fredericka Memoir from Antproof Case In Sunlight and in Shadow

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