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The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  335 ratings  ·  49 reviews
In this enlightening book James Boyle describes what he calls the range wars of the information age—today’s heated battles over intellectual property. Boyle argues that just as every informed citizen needs to know at least something about the environment or civil rights, every citizen should also understand intellectual property law. Why? Because intellectual property righ ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published December 9th 2008 by Yale University Press (first published November 3rd 2008)
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Oct 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book contains one of the best and fairest overviews of the current debate (and a bit on the history) surrounding Intellectual Property Rights that I've seen so far.
IPRs were created in the US to ensure that people would have sufficient incentives to release their private musings, writings or inventions into the public space, giving them a time-limited monopoly on the spread and sale of these works. The main goal, to stress the point, was to make sure that after this initial period, the addi

Two 1 hour live interviews about this book. Don'cha just love it when an author makes you smile as you are learning.

1 - Why Intellectual Property
2 - Thomas Jefferson Writes a Letter
3 - The Second Enclosure Movement
4 - The Internet Threat
5 - The Farmers Tale: An Allegory
6 - I got A Mashup
7 - The Enclosure of Science and Technology
8 - A Creative Commons
9 - An Evidence: Free Zone
10 -An Environmentalist for Information.

The web was created for science and it works for porn, shoes, twits, farce and bo
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academia
The public domain is a strange and perplexing thing, under assault from forces that would corporatise and privatise as much of our intellectual, cultural and social life as possible, although a domain that is increasingly hard to identify and define, but a concept that shapes and weaves its way through (if both are possible) a very large amount of our contemporary politics. Debates about the public domain are central to many of our discussions about technology, scientific and cultural developmen ...more
Nyssa Silvester
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in internet content
Recommended to Nyssa by: Writing professor
James Boyle retains a personable voice throughout the book if he sometimes dwells on some points longer than my layman's attention can focus on them. He introduces the reader not just to current intellectual property law but also to the more abstract notion of what it is we're trying to protect and what we're trying to remote through the use of copyrights and patents.

One of the most interesting points that Boyle brings up is how, because of the low cost of copying in our society, the use of tech
Brian Ferguson
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
In July of 2012, after taking a tour of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, I visited the Library of Congress across the street. The last time I was there was more than 20 years ago, and since I am now a school librarian, I was excited to see the largest library in the world. I was sorely disappointed. On my previous visit, one could walk through the ornate lobby directly into the main reading room. Now casual visitors may only climb a set of narrow stairs to a high balcony that overlooks th ...more
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
A warning about the dangers of overly aggressive intellectual property policy

If the current regulatory mindset regarding intellectual property had existed when scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web in 1989, the Internet might never have grown into the remarkable communication, entertainment and archival medium that it is today. Jazz and many other forms of music might never have come into being if governments were as strict decades ago about copyright law as they are now. Today,
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Conservatives, Libertarians, Liberals, authors
Recommended to Furbjr by:
I read this, as it was selected by people participating in as their Book of the Month for October 2012.

I enjoy reading about intellectual property. I find the topic fascinating. But other books I have read clearly delineate that copyright/patents are either good or bad. Boyle's book makes a case that those protections are sometimes necessary. His argument was pretty convincing in some respects.

Boyle's main concern is that copyrights and patents are being misused to blo
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: intellectual property, fair use, creative commons, copyleft, history of media
Recommended to Ken by: Cory Doctorow
Shelves: ebook
Absolutely outstanding. Perhaps my favorite of recently read books in this genre, but that's probably as much due to the fact that I'm very clear on the arguments now (and in agreement), so I could just enjoy the content. (all of them are fantastic) Professor Boyle's examples and reasoning are brilliant and powerful, however. He clearly states his concerns with recent (20th century) attempts to enclose and limit the rights of fair use and the public domain, and he also provides potential solutio ...more
Dec 15, 2008 marked it as to-read
It's about copyright, or perhaps I should say copyleft. It's for work. ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I have read several on this topic, as it is a topic that I am passionate about. This book is a down-to-earth look at what intellectual property is (it is an artificial right created by governments, not a natural right as many of us believe), what it is for (to encourage innovation, not to discourage competition), and where it is headed (toward longer and stronger rights for IP owners and their descendants).

It addresses the many misconceptions that most people have about "stealing" ideas, ex
Bruce Sanders
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book gives a nuanced and thorough account of the issues surrounding intellectual property vs. the public domain. It does an excellent job of arguing for less restrictive intellectual property laws without demonizing strong intellectual property advocates. In fact, it does a very fine job of explaining the rationales of strong intellectual property law advocates. Boyle also does a very good job of showing what can be lost in terms of suppression of innovation when copyright and patent laws ...more
Jan 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Accessible, top-shelf, clear-minded talk about intellectual property law from one of the leading lights of its liberalization. Most people reading that sentence will turn off. If you survived it, you should probably read the book, because it talks about problems that concern you personally: you, who write reviews on Goodreads and post vacation photos on Flickr and otherwise become an author several times a day. The book is centrally about how the bloat of the copyright system, born of misguided ...more
Mike Ehlers
Nov 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book on the current state of IP law, including some history, policy overviews, and even some case studies. Very accessible and readable. The author even lets his sense of humor show through. Definitely not a dry legal text.

I liked the emphasis on the public domain and why it needs to be protected. As the author admits, the enclosure analogy doesn't work perfectly, as intangible property is different from tangible property. But the author covers this point very well, and elaborates o
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant presentation of the evolution and influences of our intellectual property right laws and patent systems as they developed in America. Its written so that its easy to follow, and shows the struggle between innovation and our capitalist model, where they converge, and where they are set against each other. While its especially relevant now, its the notions of how information is allowed to flow through our society is and always will be important. Its also free - the entire work ...more
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: goverment officials, artists
The author makes wonderful use of examples in this book to help bring clarity to the issues around intellectual property. Clarity is just what is needed for such a vague subject. The words intellectual property probably don't mean a lot to most people. This book can help people to understand intellectual property and the damaging effects of letting laws that protect it run rampant. It also does a good job of identifying some sensible guidelines to identify when those laws are needed. I would hop ...more
Ok, a book about copyright probably doesn't sound very interesting to the non-lawyer, non-librarian audience. But, as James Boyle argues in this very accessible book, issues of intellectual property rights are becoming increasingly relevant to the average person going about her way absorbing and creating contemporary culture. Whether you're interested in music, literature, or biotechnology, you should read this book. ...more
Jim Worthington
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book introduced me to the concept of "cultural environmentalism," and the extent to which intellectual property laws are restricting the flow of ideas rather than improving them. In the same way that informed citizens and voters need a basic understanding of the economy, the digital age requires an understanding of intellectual property. I will make it a point to keep abreast of that area of the law. ...more
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Prof. Boyle ought to be emulated by more public intellectuals. He makes the somewhat arcane topic of intellectual property accessible and interesting. The Public Domain is a well-written, highly persuasive account of how the blind expansion of IP rights has cheated consumers, impeded technological progress and stifled artistic creativity.
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Copyright has become increasingly restrictive over the past 200 years. Initially imagined as a way to provide the spread of knowledge, it has morphed into a lock down on sharing. As the curator of an Institutional Repository, this reality is driven home on a daily basis. We need to educate, inform and work for Open Access, and this book helps to prepare us to do just that.
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
All about copyright, and how the laws being proposed and enacted today, if we'd had them in the past, would mean no World Wide Web, no Jazz, no Disney classics. Grr, big incumbent media companies, grr. I'm shaking my internet fist at you, can you see? ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Very short review: EVERYONE needs to read this book. This is the best, sanest, clearest explanation of the point of copyright and how we ought to think about its role in the modern world.
May 17, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: wilson-qrt-list
WQ review, also look into other books by author
Akshi Tandon
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
one my favourite books love the way he explains everything
Teresa Schmidt
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-for-slis
Well-written overview of intellectual property issues. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. ...more
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Has achieved the impossible: a readable book about intellectual property in the United States. Boyle argues that the environmental movement offers a useful model for bringing together disparate stakeholders in designing a better IP system. The first step is to make visible the public domain, the way the concept of "environment" was made visible and used to shape policy, rally support. This book represents an attempt at such a first step, to my understanding. ...more
Apr 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Not necessarily the book that I would pick up to read for fun but it contained lots of useful and at times interesting information. I think that James Boyle does a great job in engaging the reader. I found the best way to read his book was not to read it from front to back but to just jump right in the center and bounce around from there. It might have been that I was reading it in an online version so my attention span was not the longest.

He made some very good points on the public domain and w
Cathy (Ms. Sweeney)
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good historical background concerning the public domain, copyright law, and patents, and how they apply to books, movie, music, and the internet in the 21st century - including talking about legal cases involving sampling of music, youtube, the evolving definition of fair use, orphaned works (works still under copyright but without a known copyright holder), and more. The first chapter gives an overview concerning intellectual property and the second chapter is "Thomas Jefferson Writes a Letter, ...more
Lance Eaton
So everyone should read this book that is ever thinking of making anything in any form that they may or may not want credit for (either in accolades or payment). It's a great book for understanding the complexities of the public domain and the ways in which ensuring there is indeed a public commons of works after a reasonable time has passed from its creation (that is, current copyright is ridiculous) ensures a rich and vibrant culture. Additionally, it is a book that practices what it preaches ...more
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the abuses of copyright explained in plain language.
Shelves: read-2010-06
Boyle takes a notoriously abstruse topic and makes it quite accessible to the average person. Copyright, and the converse of a public domain, are very important to modern society because of the rising dominance of information as a commodity (software, patents, genetic engineering, etc.), and Boyle makes that come alive with examples, wonderfully coherent logic, and a refreshing sense of humility. Not the easiest of reads, as copyright/public domain argument is a new concept to pretty much everyo ...more
Edward B.
Dec 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very thorough, to the point of being looong.
You probably wouldn't want to read the whole thing unless you're *particularly* interested in the subject.
It *is* an important subject, though, and this does provide a good perspective on it.
The book is well-written and balanced. I like that the author keeps bringing the argument back to first principles, and that he *doesn't* have all the answers: here are the factors that need to be balanced; here are the factors that current laws/rulings ignore, mak
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  Mateo Askaripour is a Brooklyn-based writer whose bestselling debut novel, Black Buck, was published in January. It's been a Read with Jenna...
105 likes · 14 comments
“Given an area of law that legislators were happy to hand over to the affected industries and a technology that was both unfamiliar and threatening, the prospects for legislative insight were poor. Lawmakers were assured by lobbyists
a) that this was business as usual, that no dramatic changes were being made by the Green or White papers; or
b) that the technology presented a terrible menace to the American cultural industries, but that prompt and statesmanlike action would save the day; or
c) that layers of new property rights, new private enforcers of those rights, and technological control and surveillance measures were all needed in order to benefit consumers, who would now be able to “purchase culture by the sip rather than by the glass” in a pervasively monitored digital environment.
In practice, somewhat confusingly, these three arguments would often be combined. Legislators’ statements seemed to suggest that this was a routine Armageddon in which firm, decisive statesmanship was needed to preserve the digital status quo in a profoundly transformative and proconsumer way. Reading the congressional debates was likely to give one conceptual whiplash.
To make things worse, the press was—in 1995, at least—clueless about these issues. It was not that the newspapers were ignoring the Internet. They were paying attention—obsessive attention in some cases. But as far as the mainstream press was concerned, the story line on the Internet was sex: pornography, online predation, more pornography. The lowbrow press stopped there. To be fair, the highbrow press was also interested in Internet legal issues (the regulation of pornography, the regulation of online predation) and constitutional questions (the First Amendment protection of Internet pornography). Reporters were also asking questions about the social effect of the network (including, among other things, the threats posed by pornography and online predators).”
“The history of patents includes a wealth of attempts to reward friends of the government and restrict or control dangerous technologies.” 3 likes
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