Adrian Johns’s study of intellectual property (IP) battles combines a cyclical view of history with a Kuhnian model of transformative paradigm shifts. He explores copyright and patents, focusing on publishing, telecommunications (radio, telephone, internet), and analog and digital media. Johns examines sites of struggle, contention, and negotiation—conceptual and geographical—that have defined the meaning and limits of IP since the early modern era. He relates changing IP trends to major cultural shifts and questions of political authority and state power. He shows that IP concepts and struggles have been rooted principally in commerce and capitalism, and that what constitutes “piracy” is ever contested and contestable. This review suggests the need for further research into the consequences of long-term accretion of IP rights. This accretion, combined with the growing complexity of knowledge and artifacts (computers and cell phones embody hundreds of patents), poses new challenges to the viability of patent systems.


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pp. 796-800
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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