The Illustrated Story of Copyright

Review by Vernon Ford,
for Booklist (December 1, 2000)
(Copyright 2000 American Library Association)

        Starting from the perspective of the future of technological innovations such as computers and software, Samuels looks into the past, placing those innovations in historical context and giving life to what is generally considered an esoteric subject. He notes that U.S. copyright laws have been sufficiently flexible and adaptive to accommodate new issues. He examines contemporary issues from the MP3 music-sharing litigation to restrictions on copying video- and audiotapes. The book reads, in part, like a popular commentary on how regular people may be breaking the law. Interestingly, before the U.S. became an exporter of intellectual property after World War 11, it was a rogue nation, a pirate of copyrighted work from Europe, primarily Britain. As a leader in technology and commerce, however, the U.S. has been influenced by international copyright standards. Besides the technicalities of varying terms of copyrights--the current term is the life of the author plus 70 years--readers will enjoy learning how copyright applies to pop-cultural products, from movies to musicals to computer software.

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