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Book Review

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Golden Gate University School of Law, IP Law Center




There are several radical aspects of Abraham Drassinower’s book WHAT’S WRONG WITH COPYING? One is that he shoves to the side the question of copyright incentives and the economic theory of intellectual property law, both long-standing starting points for copyright theory and doctrine. Drassinower makes no intellectual apologies for this sidelining and justifies it by the second radical aspect of his book: he claims to be exploring copyright law on its own terms, not on terms from outside copyright (economics or behavioral incentives) but from internal to copyright law as written and developed since the Statute of Anne.1 This he does in impressive fashion, as I will briefly describe below. It is refreshing and a welcome intellectual and aesthetic exercise to work so closely with phrases and arguments of famous copyright cases, as if with one’s hands and a pile of clay. As a reader one comes to a new understanding and appreciation for what the cases say and how they can be freshly understood as a way forward in our “copyright wars” debating an increasing copyright scope and a shrinking public domain.2 As Drassinower says in his introduction, he sets out to “demonstrate that the assumption that copying is wrongful is a radically mistaken way to approach copyright law.”3 And he writes on the first page of the Preface that “[t]he point is to retrieve from within copyright law a neglected appreciation of the copiousness of copying, not as the agitations of wealth-maximization, but as the reverberations of thinking as a shared activity.”4 So while this book engages the on-going debate over the proper scope of copyright – a debate critical for democracy, dignity and peace (could there be any more significant triad?) – the terms of Drassinower’s engagement are original and therefore deeply welcome.

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