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Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  26 reviews

Since the rise of Napster and other file-sharing services in its wake, most of us have assumed that intellectual piracy is a product of the digital age and that it threatens creative expression as never before. The Motion Picture Association of America, for instance, claimed that in 2005 the film industry lost $2.3 billion in revenue to piracy online. But here Adrian Johns

Hardcover, 640 pages
Published January 15th 2010 by University of Chicago Press (first published 2010)
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Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Although this is a lengthy look at both the legal and historical aspects of piracy in our current age, this is an excellent way to put our day’s current piracy issues in their appropriate historical context. Johns takes the current issues and problems of piracy and copyright and demonstrates that in fact this problem is centuries old. Through examining intellectual property as it relates to print throughout the last three hundred years, the author raises interesting questions about how to ...more
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a richly detailed history of the concept of intellectual property (mainly copyright and patents) as told from the perspective of its alleged infringement. The author argues persuasively that our current modern notions of intellectual property are ideological stances of certain players in the creative industries. Most provocatively, he demonstrates that while accusations of piracy have flown fast and furious between those who have distributed the arts and sciences from early modernity on, ...more
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Dry as dust but extremely informative and leaves the reader with a solid historical foundation of Piracy. A little conservative but when deal with Piracy I'm inclined to agree. Worth your time...but like all University of Chicago texts this one will test your commitment to the process.

Highly recommended for the committed reader and amateur historians.
Affad Shaikh
Dec 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Where to begin articulating my thoughts about this book, first, I had to keep asking myself why did I pick up this book to read in the first place? I only finished this book out of shear stubbornness to not have a book left unread. My general interest in this book began with the purpose of understanding how we came to have the current copyright regime we have. It seems like an innocent enough point of reference, and this book seemed like an innocent enough place to seek out that "history." ...more
Jun 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's clear when you pick this thing up that Adrian Johns means business. It's over five hundred pages, not counting the hundred or so of footnotes -- and these are almost all citation footnotes, not further explanation -- and it feels every bit of it. Each page is dense and each chapter, at about 30 pages, requires a fair bit of mental unpacking.

In the book, Johns traces the history of piracy as a concept, touching briefly on pre-printing open-seas type stuff, before digging in to the concept of
Feb 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Roseb612 by: Respekt
Kdo by si chtěl přečíst dějiny vývoje duševního vlastnictví, tak by měl sáhnout po jiné knize než je tato, protože zde se toho o tomto tématu příliš nedozvíte. Tohle jsou dějiny psané z druhé strany barikády, z ostrova pirátů, a Johns si nekomplikuje život nějakých podrobnějším rozborem doktríny duševního vlastnictví a její kodifikace - on řeší pouze její narušování. Na začátku u knižních sporů z minulých století to není až tak markantní, ale jak se časově dostaneme do řekněme devatenáctého ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those curious about history of IP law and guilds controlling production & distribution streams.
Recommended to Patricia by: My niece Hannah got it for me for Christmas. Awesome gift!
Another huge book with a vast scope that ultimately left me wanting (see Steve Jobs biography).

Those interested in the history of IP laws and guild/government control over production streams, dating back to Gutenberg, will have much to enjoy here. Many interesting tales of how laws and rules are used as tools for amassing wealth and preventing competition.

It's also quite stuffy and overly academic. The author's narrative is often inexplicably difficult to follow. It's a lot of work for
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: globalisation, ipe
Working in the field of intellectual property enforcement, I thought this book was a great read. Its clear from the outset that the author means business and the text does, at times, become pretty dense and detailed. However, the author uses all of that detail to effect.

The book is heavily UK / US orientated with only the odd mention of what was happening at the time on Continental Europe and in other parts of the world. Later on in the book, Japan and Sony are discussed at length, in
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic-history
Fantastic survey of intellectual property rights and how they developed. The golden age of piracy (the Caribbean) was also the time when we developed the notion of "rights", starting with property and these two issues were not unconnected. Love it.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is tough. Incredibly informative, vastly researched (possibly too much?), and an extensive vocabulary. Not exactly something you can "just pick up real quick a minute." I found I had to dedicate time to read this book (at least an hour a sitting) in order to finish it in barely under two months.
I would like to read it again, for the sake of better understanding it, but I'm definitely waiting a while.
Would I recommend it? If you really want to learn about the history of piracy, sure.
Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea
what a huge book--i got through it though. Johns did an admirable job in this 10 year + history of intellectual property wars. there is an incredible amount of scholarship here. the very vastness of time he looked at is somewhat mind boggling. There were definitely parts I found more interesting (and remembered) like the Stationers in London and the really quite interesting history of phreakers, hackers, and the rise of analogue and digital technology. Then there were small portraits of players ...more
Margaret Heller
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A masterful work of history, spanning half a millenium of changes in technology and culture and showing how intellectual property and the notion of piracy has changed over this time. From the earliest origins of the scientific journal (in truth the day's proceedings of the scientific meetings) to the rationale behind the formation of the BBC full of endlessly fascinating anecdotes and personalities. It is illustrative that only a very small portion of the book is about anything that happened in ...more
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
This book is AMAZING. Yes, it is a 600-page historical and legal treatise on the origins of piracy as a concept (pirate as in software, not Jack Sparrow), but it's incredibly well-written, researched, and engaging. Right up there with The Wealth of Networks as a modern classic for any software scholar.

I don't tend to read academic books beginning to end; I've read two chapters of this and probably won't pick it up again for a while, but I wanted to write about it anyway because it has zero love
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-big-list
"Piracy" by Adrian Johns is remarkably modern and well embellished piece of historical literature. Today's tech driven economy is all about ever increasing gigabits per second and information highway ownership. It's books like these that will provide a historical account of how the concepts of Intellectual Property (in the United States at least) have developed into it's new tech driven quadrant of the metadata universe called ownership.
Sep 10, 2010 added it
I forgot how pompous and superfluous academic writing can be. Despite tripping over tropes, and writing that is in general distracting me, this book has lots of interesting information and I'm going to keep reading.
Update March 2011: Moved away from the library where this was, but will pick it up again in the future.
I'll admit I'm only 30 pages into this book and on the verge of giving up on it. I have no doubt it has great information in it, but its academic voice slows it down too much, often using ten words where five would do (in my opinion).
Jan 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Bad mistake to try reading this tome on an e-reader. On the other hand, would have been an equally bad mistake to haul a p-book on my daily subway arounds...sigh, I've never been able to finish this.
Forget eyepatches, peg-legs, and parrots on the shoulder...these pirates are the kind who plunder intellectual property. This book is big and heavy and full of promise...but I got bogged down in a few pages and threw the thing aside. Better luck next time....
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome book for anybody interested in the history of Intellectual Property. Adrian Johns really does a great job of bringing some interesting characters to life. Highly recommendable.
A dense but thoroughly fascinating exploration of the very muddy history of copyright, patents, and intellectual property -- and the people who've challenged them. Highly recommended.
Abel Caine fiji
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Blah, blah, blah - some good examples but too long
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Un detallado estudio histórico sobre la piratería y los derechos de autor.
Apr 19, 2011 marked it as half-read-or-hibernating
I had to learn some piratical moves to be able to read my totally legal copy of this on my ereader (one of the books I bought my Kobo for!)

Yes, I just admitted to having an ereader. Yikes.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Covers intellectual property piracy from the early days of print to current technology. Can be rather dry reading but fascinating to find out the long history of piracy.
Jan 20, 2012 marked it as on-hold
This is long and dense... something I suspect I'll turn to once in a while when I'm in the mood.
A refreshing take upon my favourite topic. The historical approach gives IP/piracy wars a contextual flavour that's proving to be very enlightening. A very well written book
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Adrian Johns is a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Educated at Cambridge University, Johns is a specialist on intellectual property and piracy.