Thursday, October 21, 2010

Common As Air

Another excellent contribution to the growing bookshelf of studies on intellectual property is Lewis Hyde, Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010). Hyde, a writer with affiliations with several universities, looks at the members of the founding generation of the United States to see what they have to say about what later became known as intellectual property. He finds men like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison to be against exclusive control, wanting knowledge to be available for supporting “democratic self-governance, encouraging creative community, and enabling citizens to become public actors, both civic and creative” (p. 77). He notes that the Founders were always worried about the use and abuse of power when it came to the issue of information and knowledge. Hyde examines a variety of interesting recent case studies, such as Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr. images and materials, and the Human Genome Project. Hyde also addresses the role of universities in this, noting that “If the proper mission of a university is to preserve, create, and disseminate knowledge, and if that mission conflicts with values from other spheres, then propriety demands resistance” (p. 225).

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