The Illustrated Story of Copyright

Review by Ralph Oman, Dechert, Washington, D.C.,
U. S. Register of Copyrights 1985-93

        As the former Register of Copyrights, I confess that I am a copyright freak. So it should come as no surprise that I found Prof. Samuels' book absolutely absorbing from cover to cover. He gives us a lively sampling of both copyright law and copyright lore. He traces the steady expansion of copyright to embrace each new generation of technology, be it photography, motion pictures, radio, television, CDs and tapes, computers, and now the Internet. The book has many strengths--an excellent introduction to copyright basics, a breezy history of copyright, and a sample of the juicy cases that helped shape the law, all enhanced with great photographs, artwork, movie stills, and cartoons.
        Best of all, Prof. Samuels recounts many delicious anecdotes--some familiar, some new--about famous writers, composers, movie stars, and photographers in a way that makes the law come alive. . . . .
        On a more serious note, the book--with its informal humor, its social history, its non-legal style, and its snappy illustrations--will place the current controversies over digital technologies in their historic continuum. For four hundred years, creators have waged a constant battle to defend their copyrights against pirates, scofflaws and equipment manufacturers. By reaching a mass audience, the book will help even the teenager-in-the-street understand that artists and writers need copyright to pay the rent and feed their children.
    The book will be at the top of my holiday gift list for all of the long-suffering people who sensed my enthusiasm for copyright but never had more than a vague notion of what I was talking about. It is a book they will read and enjoy.

Back to home page
Back to Reviews page
To site map