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.