Review of James Boyle's the Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind
The IP Law Book Review, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 50-53, February 2011
5 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2011
Date Written: 2011
In the age of the Internet, what are lawmakers doing to protect the public from copyright? This is the central question Boyle considers as he explores the history, application, and future of intellectual property laws to works of authorship using contemporary technologies. On one hand, Boyle draws lessons from history, adroitly explaining the positions of legal theorists such as Thomas Babington Macaulay and Thomas Jefferson toward the possibilities and limitations of intellectual property. On the other hand, Boyle draws distinctions from pre-Internet thought, noting the transformations on traditional intellectual property that the age of instantaneous publication and distribution requires. The theme unifying the two is clear: In our history of expanding intellectual property rights, legislatures have consistently neglected to preserve the public domain as an important natural resource.
Boyle posits that this moment in time, for intellectual property law and policy, is at the same point that the environmental law movement occupied in the 1950s. He calls for a, "cultural environmental movement" (p. 247), allowing us to see and preserve the public domain as a national resource just as important as clean air and water. And, while tempering his criticism with optimism, Boyle leaves us with a warning of his own: "Good intellectual property policy will not save our culture. But bad policy may lock up our cultural heritage unnecessarily..." (p. 246).
Keywords: intellectual property, copyright, public domain, copyright and technology, enclosing the commons, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, European Union Database Directive, James Boyle, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Babington Macaulay
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation