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Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Fugitive’s Properties – LAW AND THE POETICS OF POSSESSION

STEPHEN M. BEST

 

In this study of literature and law before and since the Civil War, Stephen M. Best shows how American conceptions of slavery, property, and the idea of the fugitive were profoundly interconnected. The Fugitive’s Propertiesuncovers a poetics of intangible, personified property emerging out of antebellum laws, circulating through key nineteenth-century works of literature, and informing cultural forms such as blackface minstrelsy and early race films.

 

Best also argues that legal principles dealing with fugitives and indebted persons provided a sophisticated precursor to intellectual property law as it dealt with rights in appearance, expression, and other abstract aspects of personhood. In this conception of property as fleeting, indeed fugitive, American law preserved for much of the rest of the century slavery’s most pressing legal imperative: the production of personhood as a market commodity. By revealing the paradoxes of this relationship between fugitive slave law and intellectual property law, Best helps us to understand how race achieved much of its force in the American cultural imagination.

A work of ambitious scope and compelling cross-connections, The Fugitive’s Properties sets new agendas for scholars of American literature and legal culture.

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Just started reading “Openness, Secrecy and Authorship – technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance” by Pamela O. Long. It is really interesting and it challenges a few ideas that I feel are always taken for granted about how knowledge circulated in the past.  I guess it re-inforces something that we are always aware in The Piracy Project which is that  generalizations are not necessarily  helpful when discussing Intellectual Property.

She also has an interview with David Levine ( the most amazing source for interesting authors working on copyright ) at: 

http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/podcasts/podcast_rss.xml

She was launching a new book on obelisks that sounded really interesting.

 

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(texts from amazon.co.uk)

Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance

In today’s world of intellectual property disputes, industrial espionage, and book signings by famous authors, one easily loses sight of the historical nature of the attribution and ownership of texts. In Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Pamela Long combines intellectual history with the history of science and technology to explore the culture of authorship. Using classical Greek as well as medieval and Renaissance European examples, Long traces the definitions, limitations, and traditions of intellectual and scientific creation and attribution. She examines these attitudes as they pertain to the technical and the practical. Although Long’s study follows a chronological development, this is not merely a general work. Long is able to examine events and sources within their historical context and locale. By looking at Aristotelian ideas of Praxis, Techne, and Episteme. She explains the tension between craft and ideas, authors and producers. She discusses, with solid research and clear prose, the rise, wane, and resurgence of priority in the crediting and lionizing of authors. Long illuminates the creation and re-creation of ideas like “trade secrets,” “plagiarism,” “mechanical arts,” and “scribal culture.” Her historical study complicates prevailing assumptions while inviting a closer look at issues that define so much of our society and thought to this day. She argues that “a useful working definition of authorship permits a gradation of meaning between the poles of authority and originality,” and guides us through the term’s nuances with clarity rarely matched in a historical study.

 

Obelisk: A History (Publications of the Burndy Library)

Nearly every empire worthy of the name–from ancient Rome to the United States–has sought an Egyptian obelisk to place in the center of a ceremonial space. Obelisks–giant standing stones, invented in Ancient Egypt as sacred objects–serve no practical purpose. For much of their history their inscriptions, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, were completely inscrutable. Yet over the centuries dozens of obelisks have made the voyage from Egypt to Rome, Constantinople, and Florence; to Paris, London, and New York. New obelisks and even obelisk-shaped buildings rose as well–the Washington Monument being a noted example. Obelisks, everyone seems to sense, connote some very special sort of power. This beautifully illustrated book traces the fate and many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries–what they meant to the Egyptians, and how other cultures have borrowed, interpreted, understood, and misunderstood them through the years. In each culture obelisks have taken on new meanings and associations. To the Egyptians, the obelisk was the symbol of a pharaoh’s right to rule and connection to the divine. In ancient Rome, obelisks were the embodiment of Rome’s coming of age as an empire. To nineteenth-century New Yorkers, the obelisk in Central Park stood for their country’s rejection of the trappings of empire just as it was itself beginning to acquire imperial power. And to a twentieth-century reader of Freud, the obelisk had anatomical and psychological connotations. The history of obelisks is a story of technical achievement, imperial conquest, Christian piety and triumphalism, egotism, scholarly brilliance, political hubris, bigoted nationalism, democratic self-assurance, Modernist austerity, and Hollywood kitsch–in short, the story of Western civilization.

 

After meeting Chris Habib earlier this year at Printed Matter he got me thinking of how current copyright makes no sense in relation to a republican platform for small government. In a weird way that prepared me to see this quite sensible paper on copyright reform by a republican think tank. It also doesn’t surprise me that they had to take it down so quickly. It does sounds quite reasonable and fair somehow. I wonder if I missing a hidden obscure agenda or do I really agree with a republican think tanks as it seems? 

 This links are quite easy to find online or through boing boing but I’ll add them here anyway.

Boing Boing coverage:

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/17/house-republicans-release-wate.html

Tech dirt report:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20121116/16481921080/house-republicans-copyright-law-destroys-markets-its-time-real-reform.shtml?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

The Paper on a mirror site:

http://keionline.org/sites/default/files/rsc_policy_brief_–_three_myths_about_copyright_law_and_where_to_start_to_fix_it_–_november_16_2012.pdf