Essential Guide to Intellectual Property
(Yale Press, 2019)
This engaging and accessible study looks at the origins, evolution, purpose, and limitations of intellectual property. Detailing how intellectual property affects industry, politics, cultural expression, and medical research, Aram Sinnreich takes a multidisciplinary approach to uncover what’s behind the current debates and what the future holds for copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
Based on the notion that intellectual property law is not merely a property right but also a mechanism of cultural and economic regulation with significant consequences for democratic institutions, global businesses, arts, and the sciences, Sinnreich draws on media studies, communications, law, economics, and cultural studies as he provides a blueprint for understanding intellectual property rights and underlines the important and pervasive role that they play in everyone’s lives.
The Piracy Crusade
(UMass Press, 2013)
In the decade and a half since Napster first emerged, forever changing the face of digital culture, the claim that "internet pirates killed the music industry" has become so ubiquitous that it is treated as common knowledge. Piracy is a scourge on legitimate businesses and hard-working artists, we are told, a "cybercrime" similar to identity fraud or even terrorism.
In The Piracy Crusade, I critique the notion of "piracy" as a myth perpetuated by today's cultural cartels -- the handful of companies that dominate the film, software, and especially music industries. As digital networks have permeated our social environment, they have offered vast numbers of people the opportunity to experiment with innovative cultural and entrepreneurial ideas predicated on the belief that information should be shared widely. This has left the media cartels, whose power has historically resided in their ability to restrict the flow of cultural information, with difficult choices: adapt to this new environment, fight the changes tooth and nail, or accept obsolescence. Their decision to fight has resulted in ever stronger copyright laws and the aggressive pursuit of accused infringers.
Yet the most dangerous legacy of this "piracy crusade" is not the damage inflicted on promising start-ups or on well-intentioned civilians caught in the crosshairs of file-sharing litigation. Far more troubling, Sinnreich argues, are the broader implications of copyright laws and global treaties that sacrifice free speech and privacy in the name of combating the phantom of piracy -- policies that threaten to undermine the foundations of democratic society.
(UMass Press, 2010)
Mashed Up chronicles the rise of "configurability," an emerging musical and cultural moment rooted in today's global, networked communications infrastructure. Based on interviews with dozens of prominent DJs, attorneys, and music industry executives, the book argues that today's battles over sampling, file sharing, and the marketability of new styles such as "mash-ups" and "techno" presage social change on a far broader scale.
Music has always been regulated in societies around the globe. Institutional authorities ranging from dynastic China's "Office to Harmonize Sounds" to today's copyright collecting societies like BMI and ASCAP leverage the rule of law and the power of the market to make sure that some musical forms and practices are allowed and others are prohibited.
Yet, despite the efforts of these powerful regulators, musical cultures consistently devise new and innovative ways to work around institutional regulations. These workarounds often generate new styles and traditions in turn, with effects far beyond the cultural sphere.
This book suggests some new twists in this age-old story: the emergence of a new ethic of configurable collectivism; an economic reunion of labor; a renegotiation of the line between public and private; a shift from linear to recursive logic; and a new "DJ consciousness," in which the margins are becoming the new mainstream. Whether these changes are sudden or gradual, violent or peaceful, will depend on whether we heed the lessons of configurability, or continue to police and punish the growing ranks of the mashed up.