Moral panics

I’ve recently finished William Patry’s 2009 book, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars. The book has been widely praised, and I had been looking forward to reading Patry’s work.

Starting with the introduction, Patry explains copyright as a monopoly granted by the legislature to encourage the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Throughout the book, he illustrates how longer monopolies are less likely to lead to innovation, growth in output and the dissemination of knowledge that copyright was created to support.

Patry dedicates the core of the book to describing how copyright holders have repeatedly used “moral panics” to argue for extensions of their monopoly. In Patry’s view, their interests of copyright holders are natural but (when wholly granted) antithetical to the public interest. He calls on the federal government to reform copyright and restore it to its Constitutional purpose.

While Patry is trained and works as a lawyer, the book is written to make it accessible to anyone who cares about understanding copyright. It is astoundingly well researched, and the footnotes alone (saved for a section in the back) are a lesson in the history of copyright.

If you follow our work on piracy, this book provides the context that I wish we had when we started researching the subject. If you own any copyrights, Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is a must-read. I hope Patry’s argument has already started the ball rolling toward more sensible copyright laws.

Brian O'Leary

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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