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Common as air : revolution, art, and ownership
Lewis Hyde
Adult Nonfiction ZA3270 .H93 2010

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The question of how our cultural commons, our shared store of art and knowledge, might be made compatible with our modern age of stringent copyright laws, intellectual property rights, and restrictive patenting is taken up with considerable brio by Hyde (The Gift). Moving deftly between literary analysis, historiography, biography, and impassioned polemic, the book traces the idea of commonage from its English pastoral manifestations and pays particular attention to the American founding fathers' ideals of self-governance and civic republicanism grounded in the vision of a public realm animated by openly shared knowledge and property rights that functioned for the benefit of society rather than individuals alone. Hyde leaps nimbly, if sometimes too hurriedly, from the Ancient Mariner to the human genome project, ultimately offering a vision of human subjectivity that is fundamentally social, historical, and plural. If the book is perhaps not wholly successful in showing how we might concretely legislate for a cultural commons that would simultaneously allow for financial reward and protection from monopoly, it is nonetheless a fascinating and eminently readable attempt to coordinate commerce and creativity in what he sees as an increasingly restrictive economy of ideas. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Marc Helprin's Digital Barbarism: A Writer's Manifesto argued vehemently last year that when it comes to ownership, intellectual property should be treated like all other property, like a business or a piece of real estate. But his argument came across as little more than an ill-tempered yawp. Now here is MacArthur Fellow Hyde with a different take. Drawing on the writings and lives of the Founding Fathers-above all Benjamin Franklin-Hyde argues convincingly that intellectual property is radically different from real property. Patents and copyrights are a privilege, not a right, and for public, not private, benefit: they recompense inventors and authors for their labor by awarding a "stinted" monopoly (one with conditions), but afterward the fruit of their labors becomes part of the "cultural commons"-open to all. Hyde presents horror stories about current practices: a DNA sequence patented before a use is even found for it, King's "dream" speech not available in the public domain, heirs prohibiting scholars from using a writer's letters when they disagree with the scholar's take on the subject. VERDICT Cogently argued, Common is a compelling take on an important subject for a democracy like ours.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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