It’s called Copyfight: The global politics of digital copyright reform. It’s out now from University of Toronto Press. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s it about?
It’s the touching story of a young boy’s coming of age, but it’s also so, so much more. UTP PR folks, take it away!
Widespread file sharing has led content industries – publishers and distributors of books, music, films, and software – to view their customers as growing threats to their survival. Content providers and their allies, especially the U.S. government, have pushed for stronger global copyright policies through international treaties and domestic copyright reforms. Internet companies, individuals, and public-interest groups have pushed back, with massive street protests in Europe and online “internet blackouts” that derailed the 2012 U.S. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But can citizens or smaller countries really stand in the way of the U.S. copyright juggernaut?
To answer this question, Copyfight examines the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization internet treaties that began the current digital copyright regime. Blayne Haggart follows the WIPO treaties from negotiation to implementation from the perspective of three countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Using extensive interviews with policymakers and experts in these three countries, Haggart argues that not all the power is in the hands of the U.S. government. Small countries can still set their own course on copyright legislation, while growing public interest in copyright issues means that even the United States might move away from ever-increasing copyright protection.
Pretty interesting, right?
Why should I buy this book?
If you’re interested in the politics of copyright, and if anything in the above description grabs you, then this is the book for you. Also, if you’re into online social movements (and who isn’t?), the book also tells the story of what I like to call the First Facebook Uprising. Turns out copyright politics is a breeding ground for all sorts of innovative strategies that eventually show up elsewhere, like in the Arab Spring.
If you want to understand the politics of the global economy, you should really be paying attention to how copyright and intellectual property work. Copyfight is my attempt to make sense of this relatively neglected corner of the world.
And! The Acknowledgements section features restaurant recommendations spanning three countries, and appearances by George Clooney, Nelson Mandela and the Sydney Swans of the Australian Football League. Go Swans!
I only buy books that have been approved by respected scholars. Who’s in your corner?
What, my word isn’t good enough for you? What about that I interviewed dozens of people in Canada, Mexico and the United States for this project? How about that it’s published by Canada’s top university press? Canada’s!
Nope. I want endorsements.
You’re a cruel taskmaster. Fortunately, Copyfight has elicited some very kind words from some academics I admire greatly.
Susan Sell, from The George Washington University, says:
Copyfight is a powerful reminder of the way in which the lines between multilateral, regional, bilateral, and domestic governance have become increasingly blurred. Well-written and based on extensive primary research, it is quite compelling.
Michael Geist, from the University of Ottawa and the architect of the aforementioned Facebook Uprising, had the following to say:
Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight provides an exceptional contribution to our understanding of how copyright laws are made, the role the public can play in influencing policy, and the global pressures faced by Canada and other similarly placed countries. His comparative analysis of Canada, the United States, and Mexico offers a unique window into both the similarities and important differences between the NAFTA countries, helping to explain why the laws have evolved in different ways. With the ‘copyfight’ likely to continue, this book is a must-read for those seeking insight into the forces that shape our digital environment.
And Peter Drahos, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development, Australian National University
Modern copyright has become a shadowy labyrinth in which states, big business, interest groups, social movements, and activists engage in complex manoeuvres and fights. Blayne Haggart’s Copyfight tells the story of the politics of digital copyright in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Through its wonderfully clear prose and conceptual framework it guides the reader through copyright’s labyrinth. It deserves to be widely read.
That’s not enough. Does it have a fancy cover?
Yes! How awesome is this?
Wow! That would look great on a T-shirt.
We’re working on it.
Is it a #1 bestseller yet?
I don’t want to brag, but Copyfight is currently ranked #1,209,603 on amazon.com. Let’s get it up to #1,209,599 and give Thomas Piketty a run for his money! It’s doing a bit better on amazon.ca, at #54,955 (and #6 in digital law books), but that’s probably because we have far fewer books here in Canada, most of which are sold as fuel to get us through the long, long winters.
I’m sold! Where can I buy it, and how much will it set me back?
You can buy it directly from U of T Press for a very reasonable $26.57. You can also get it for a bit less at amazon.ca or chapters.ca, or for a bit more from amazon.com. Probably elsewhere.
Have at it!
As one of the few who understand that copyright is unnecessary, harmful, and its enforcement devastates basic rights to privacy, free speech, free press, anonymous democratic engagement, I invite you now to consider that no other act of information movement should ever be criminalized either. From our own “hate crimes”, to EU’s right to be forgotten, to blasphemy, libel, obscenity. These are all slippery slopes, impossible to define, easy to abuse, impossible to enforce fairly, unnecessary and, in fact, harmful. Yet they represent an excuse to control the Internet by the many forces who see it as a threat: governments, established media, the rich, law enforcement.
There are many who intuitively understand the magnitude of the threat to freedom, democracy. From the Dutch parliament wearing Guy Fawkes masks, to occupyers, to Arab springers, to legions of reddit and 4chan fans; from Jimmy Wales to Lawrence Lessig. But few have your capacity to appreciate that you cannot just have “some free speech”, you cannot feed a law enforcement regime with only the criminals who were too dumb to know about surveillance, you cannot stop a network of machines whose function is to copy and forward, from copying and forwarding, and you cannot open up fast lanes for the rich without harming competitor startups.
The only answer is to be done with this outdated notion of “information crimes”, of information as property, and of the Internet as a thing, with a jurisdiction, and a legally responsible owner. Rather it is a language, an agreement, a conversation. Like all art, cannot be pinned on one person. Even if its publication can be associated with IP address, even that can be faked.
Indeed, the only way we will be able to talk freely with our families, our lawyers, our priests and our counsellors, is if we make surveillance impossible. TORrify everything at the backbone level, continue to teach about surveillance and encryption, repeal unjust laws and vote in parties that believe that “The government has no business in the private communications of the nation.”
Please join us in the fight, beyond copyright, and into the war over the Internet and the future.
Annie O’ (once badger, too!)