Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars

Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is a book by William Patry. Patry is Senior Copyright Counsel at Google, Inc.

Wikipedia entry on Patry

Book description:

Metaphors, moral panics, folk devils, Jack Valenti, Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes, predictable irrationality, and free market fundamentalism are a few of the topics covered in this lively, unflinching examination of the Copyright Wars: the pitched battles over new technology, business models, and most of all, consumers.
In Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars, William Patry lays bare how we got to where we are: a bloated, punitive legal regime that has strayed far from its modest, but important roots. Patry demonstrates how copyright is a utilitarian government program--not a property or moral right. As a government program, copyright must be regulated and held accountable to ensure it is serving its public purpose. Just as Wall Street must serve Main Street, neither can copyright be left to a Reaganite "magic of the market."

The way we have come to talk about copyright--metaphoric language demonizing everyone involved--has led to bad business and bad policy decisions. Unless we recognize that the debates over copyright are debates over business models, we will never be able to make the correct business and policy decisions.

A centrist and believer in appropriately balanced copyright laws, Patry concludes that calls for strong copyright laws, just like calls for weak copyright laws, miss the point entirely: the only laws we need are effective laws, laws that further the purpose of encouraging the creation of new works and learning. Our current regime, unfortunately, creates too many bad incentives, leading to bad conduct. Just as President Obama has called for re-tooling and re-imagining the auto industry, Patry calls for a remaking of our copyright laws so that they may once again be respected.


Patry is also the author of this law review article:

Failure of the American Copyright System: Protecting the Idle Rich
Patry, William Notre Dame law review ; v. 72, no. 4. pg907

Article is available in Lexis Academic if you have access to that.

Choice recommends a look at Patry's blog over purchasing his book. Works for me.

Patry wrote 150 - 200 posts per year from 2005-2009. I am sure if you read all of those you would have the gist of the book. The book pulls things together in one place. Also for libraries you can direct a person to the book and you can direct someone to the blog but the book is going to be much more organized.

William Patry's blogs are definitely worthwhile in their own right. (now retired, but a terrific resource, and I think some of the best discussions on copyright that I've seen) (has info about updates to his treatise)

and his current blog, related to the book

The blogs aren't the book, though. The blogs do have a good overview of his opinions, and some great discussions in the comments. That being said, the book is very well researched and has some interesting sources and discussions you really won't find elsewhere, and is very much worth reading in its own right even if you have read his blogs from the beginning.