Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

Noted copyright expert William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and former copyright counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, has published Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars with Oxford University Press. Patry is also blogging on this topic at Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. (His well-regarded previous blog was The Patry Copyright Blog.)

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

In Moral Panics And The Copyright Wars, Patry details the path that we have taken to get to our current misunderstanding of copyright laws. The most prolific scholar of copyright in history and the author of an eight-volume treatise on copyright and a separate treatise on the fair use doctrine, Patry argues that the cause of these copyright wars throughout history can be largely attributed to words—specifically, metaphors. Patry describes different kinds of metaphors, using them to further illustrate the ways that copyright laws have come to be unnecessarily expanded and misunderstood. For example, nowadays the term "pirate" is used in many instances to describe a type of copyright violation. Patry writes that it is the repetition of the pirate metaphor that makes the term stick, although the metaphor may be used incorrectly or may even be entirely false. This repetition of such metaphors causes whatever company or individual that has come to be associated with the word "pirate" to always be attached to the negative traits associated with a "pirate." This is just one of the ways that Patry shows the influence that words have had in negatively expanding copyright laws as well as causing the public, those who the laws are meant to help, to misunderstand them.

Patry contends that it has been this metaphoric language that has led to poor business decisions and obscured copyright law's true, public purpose. He concludes that calls for strong copyright laws, just like calls for weak copyright laws, miss the point entirely: the only laws we need are effective laws, laws that further the purpose of encouraging the creation of new works and learning—and that bring respect back to our copyright process.

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