Copyright’s Highway

One need not publish a book to have a stake in copyright law. Copyright issues may arise any time that people photocopy from a magazine, videotape from television, or load borrowed software onto a computer. Most people know that such activities involve copyright issues, but beyond the fact that copyright has something to do with protecting creative expression, people’s notions about the subject quickly become murky. What, for example, is meant by “fair use”? For that matter, what exactly is copyright? And why does it provoke so much debate and confusion? Goldstein’s elegant little volume provides a clear philosophical approach to the subject.

Goldstein is already the author of a standard legal treatise on copyright, so it is not his purpose in COPYRIGHT’S HIGHWAY to catalog legal rules and details. Instead, he explores the broad history and philosophy behind copyright law by approaching it from several different directions. His first chapter, “The Metaphysics of Copyright,” discusses the copyright issues behind a legal case brought by the copyright owners of a song against the rap group 2 Live Crew, which covered the song in a parody. Other chapters discuss the film studios’ battle against videotaping, a journal publisher’s struggle against unrestricted photocopying, Apple Computer’s fight against Microsoft Windows, and much more.

By its nature, copyright law is an always complex, often foggy, and occasionally self-contradictory subject that does not lend itself to easy analysis and understanding. As a lively and authoritative work that goes far in clearing away this haze, COPYRIGHT’S HIGHWAY is a welcome addition to the literature on the subject.