Friday, December 05, 2008

Book: The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

James Boyle -- who is the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law at Duke Law School and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and Chairman of the Board of Creative Commons -- has written a book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. The book is available for free on the book's web site and available for purchase as places like (He does explain on the web site why giving it away for free and selling it simultaneously makes sense.) He is using a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License.

What is this book about? Quoting Boyle (page xiii):
This book is an attempt to tell the story of the battles over intellectual property, the range wars of the information age. I want to convince you that intellectual property is important, that it is something that any informed citizen needs to know a little about, in the same way that any informed citizen needs to know at least something about the environment, or civil rights, or the way the economy works. I will try my best to be fair, to explain the issues and give both sides of the argument. Still, you should know that this is more than mere description. In the pages that follow, I try to show that current intellectual property policy is overwhelmingly and tragically bad in ways that everyone, and not just lawyers or economists, should care about. We are making bad decisions that will have a negative effect on our culture, our kids’ schools, and our communications networks; on free speech, medicine, and scientific research. We are wasting some of the promise of the Internet, running the risk of ruining an amazing system of scientific innovation, carving out an intellectual property exemption to the First Amendment. I do not write this as an enemy of intellectual property, a dot-communist ready to end all property rights; in fact, I am a fan. It is precisely because I am a fan that I am so alarmed about the direction we are taking.
Yet, he says that the message is not all doom-and-gloom. In fact, he believes that there is reason for hope.

This book is 333 pages, with notes and indexes. I've downloaded a copy and have been skimming it (I'll read in-depth later). Boyle does a good job "drawing in" the reader and making his point. And it is message that I hope we all can support.

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