Intellectual Property: A Reference Handbook

Intellectual Property: A Reference Handbook

Intellectual Property: A Reference Handbook

Intellectual Property: A Reference Handbook


This book examines the history of the concepts of intellectual property and the current state of U.S. and international intellectual property law.

• Fourteen original documents, including the Supreme Court's opinion in the file-sharing case MGM v. Grokster

• A detailed chronology that covers important events from a global perspective


The human desire to claim property rights in an idea is innate, as any child who has ever told another “Stop copying me!” knows. Legal recognition of property in ideas, however— intellectual property—is a comparatively recent phenomenon, appearing centuries of millennia after the recognition of property rights in objects and land.

Revolutions in technology bring about revolutions in law. the human race has experienced four great revolutions in information technology. the first, lost in prehistory and probably predating our emergence as a species, was language. the ability to attach specific sound-symbols to specific thoughts is what makes human civilization—including legal systems—possible. the second revolution, the invention of writing, made more complex legal systems possible. When written documents could only be copied by hand, however, the incentive for making unauthorized copies of entire works was limited—although disputes did arise, including the possibly mythical dispute between St. Columba and St. Finnian (discussed in Chapter 2) that may have led to three thousand deaths.

The third revolution in information technology was the invention of movable-type printing. the ability to reproduce printed works quickly and easily created an incentive for printers to copy the works of others, and a corresponding incentive for the authors of those works to prevent unauthorized copying. Some countries (Korea and England, for example) reacted by granting monopolies to approved printers and forbidding all others from operating printing presses. in addition to controlling unauthorized copying, this had the fringe benefit of preventing the printing of any material criticizing the government. in many countries . . .

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