Book Review: Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity

Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity  
Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity: The Third Paradigm by Giancarlo Frosio (Université de Strasbourg) thoroughly and thoughtfully examines the history of (mostly western) cultural history from cave art to digital remix in order to demonstrate the conflict between traditional cumulative creativity and modern copyright policy. “From the oral-formuliac tradition to digital remix, the making of creativity and culture has been thriving through appropriate, imitation and borrowing.”

The book is set out in three parts; the first, second and third paradigm. The first paradigm is titled Harmony. This is the imitative creative paradigm where all types of creativity coexist in a state of harmony. This section considers pre-copyright creativity from Homer to Shakespeare where creativity developed as a predominantly cumulative and collective effort through imitation, plagiarism, borrowing, re-writing, re-mixing and the re-use of iconic characters and metaphoric heroic figures. Furthermore, Frosio submits, that creativity was considered a gift rather than a market exchange.

This Kat remembers studying the history of copyright and the theoretical justifications from John Locke and Mark Rose (the author as the proprietor). But, what struck me about this book was that never before has the discourse been placed so vividly within the wider context of the birth of the individual. For instance, Dürer might have written the first (sort of) copyright notice in 1511: “beware, you envious thieves of the work and the inventions of others, keep your rash hands from the works of ours.” Although sadly it turned out to be unenforceable...

The 2nd paradigm is titled Separation, where Frosio demonstrates the shift from the author-centred system to the development a copyright system that is focused on the distributor. A critique of the system argues that aggressive legislation practices does not serve the public and the overreaching policy suppresses transformative uses of creativity into the “dungeons of copyright”.

Another flash back to the historical development of copyright – where we accept that before the repeal of the Licensing of the Press Act 1662, the Stationers Company held a monopoly on the right copy which enabled censorship issues – Frosio submits an argument for corporate censorship through centralisation of information production and homogenization of culture. “Top-down push marketing strategies promoting a corporate-driven culture may have undesirable effects on freedom of expression and cultural diversity...closely connected with expansionist copyright law.” WOAH.

The 3rd Paradigm is Reconciliation, arguing that the digital era that can break away from the romanticism of the 2nd Paradigm and allow creativity to reconcile if policies adapt to new cultural and technological landscape, could the return of the gift economy. Frosio provides a road map to reform that shapes the interplay between community, law and market that enables the full exploitation of the digital opportunity.
Yes, do go on, I wasn't sure at first,
but now you have my full attention...
Photo: Rob Hirai

Honestly, when I first read the line “this book looks at the past in an attempt to understand the future,” I wasn’t sure if I would have the will to read on, having seen such a sentence a million times before used in a meaningless way. HOWEVER, on this occasion I couldn’t have been more wrong. I feel like this book joined up dots of knowledge and information in my mind that I didn’t realise where connected before!

In fact, what I love most about this book is the brilliance with which it is written, it is bursting with cultural references and embedded with incidental, and yet some-how integral, stories of characters, quotes, films and creators. 

If you work or study in the field of copyright – lawyer, legislator, librarian or lobbyist – you should read this book. It would be of particular interest to anyone who has ever thought about what creativity is, and what its relationship with copyright is, or ought to be.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, I am adding this one to the nominations for IPKat book of the year!! 

Published by: Edward Elgar
Hardback Price: £100.00 Web: £90.00
Publication Date: 2018
ISBN: 978 1 78811 417 2
390 pages
Book Review: Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity Book Review: Reconciling Copyright with Cumulative Creativity Reviewed by Hayleigh Bosher on Sunday, December 16, 2018 Rating: 5

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