Why the Frame of 'Piracy' Matters by ProQuest


More Info
									22       InformationToday
June 2009     www.infotoday.com

                                                                                                                                                        some problems with this definition: For ex-
            Intellectual Property                                                                                                                       ample, the naval scholar Rubin noted in
                                                                                                                                                        his book that this definition refers to ille-

     Why the Frame of ‘Piracy’ Matters                                                                                                                  gal acts, yet fails to address the law by
                                                                                                                                                        which illegality would be determined. Still,
                                                                                                                                                        the UNCLOS definition remains consis-
                                                                                                                                                        tent with the concept of violent theft at sea.
     by K. MATTHEW DAMES          |                    of the Caribbean) are inconsistent with         booksellers in the 17th century into a com-         In the end, the primary definition of pi-
                                                       the term’s native meaning.                      plaint about American theft of literature        racy always has essentially meant forcible

              ince the U.S. Navy rescued Capt.             Scholar Alfred P. Rubin’s The Law of        from British writers such as Dickens and         taking at sea. But how did piracy become
              Richard Phillips in April, many Piracy, a comprehensive history of piracy,               Tennyson in the 18th and 19th centuries.         connected to copyright and other forms of
              news outlets have been writing contends that the practice of piracy orig-                At the time America declared its indepen-        intellectual property?
     about piracy. Interestingly, some news inally had a positive (even proud) repu-                   dence from Britain, many books that cir-
     outlets have raised an impor-                                 tation. During the 10th and 9th     culated in the country were imported, and
     tant question about “piracy” as                               centuries B.C. in Greece, small     copyright laws were virtually nonexistent
                                                                                                                                                        Connecting ‘Piracy’ to IP
     a term: In light of the ongoing                               groups routinely engaged in         until Connecticut passed the country’s               Since the first edition of Black’s, “pi-
     (and newly newsworthy) threat                                 the organized use of force; this    first legislation intended to protect an au-     racy” also has had a secondary definition
     of violence on the high seas,                                 was an activity seen merely as      thor’s work. Several of the colonial states      that synonymizes piracy with IP theft. As
     should “piracy” continue to be                                part of citizens’ struggle for      followed with their own copyright laws.          Henry Campbell Black wrote in 1898, the
     used to mean theft of works                                   survival rather than anything                                                        term “piracy” “is also applied to the illicit
     that are protected by copyright                               immoral or illegal. Those who                                                        reprinting or reproduction of a copyrighted
     or other forms of intellectual                                engaged in piracy seized es-
                                                                                                       ‘Piracy’ and the Law                             book or print or to unlawful plagiarism
     property (IP)?                                                sential goods, but the practice         The term “piracy” was codified into          from it.” This definition is consistent with
         Stephen J. Dubner, a co-            K. Matthew Dames      was not limited to necessities,     American legal language in 1891, when            the 1798 case Beckford v. Hood, one of
     author of The New York Times’                                 since pirates also seized goods     West Publishing Co. released the first           American law’s first case citations that
     Freakonomics blog, was one of the first merely for gain. Whether for need or sport,               edition of Henry Campbell Black’s A Dic-         invoked “piracy” as a proxy for unautho-
     to pose the question openly. In his April piracy served as a wholly legitimate alter-             tionary of Law. Also known from its in-          rized copying. In Beckford, the court char-
     13 post, Dubner even asked his audience native to Greece’s main gift-exchange eco-                ception as Black’s Law Dictionary (or just       acterized the case’s primary issue (an
     to suggest substitute names. When he fol- nomic transfer system. In this way, piracy              Black’s), Black’s has long maintained a          unauthorized commercial republication
     lowed up with another post on April 17, was an original underground economy.                      reputation as the pre-eminent legal dic-         of a book) as “an action upon the case for
     he elected the term “downlifting” as the lin-         The word peirato first appeared in          tionary for American law.                        piracy of copyright.”
     guistic successor to “piracy.” Dubner’s ar- Greek literature about 140 B.C., when it                  The first primary definition for “piracy”        But connecting “piracy” to copyright
     ticle followed a pithy analysis by blogger was applied to political and economic com-             in Black’s is “robbery or forcible depreda-      has as much to do with historical develop-
     Jenny Kakasuleff of the Indianapolis Lib- munities on the Mediterranean seashore.                 tion on the high seas, without lawful au-        ments in this country as the law. Accord-
     eral Examiner. Kakasuleff’s post was the Rubin claims the peirato formed com-                     thority … in the spirit and intention of uni-    ing to Oren Bracha, a University of Texas
     first I saw this year that questioned the munities, had religious rites, and handed               versal hostility.” Black’s has defined piracy    law professor and author of a 2008 study
     wisdom of using “piracy” within the con- down musical traditions as did many other                primarily in the same way through its            titled “The Ideology of Authorship Revis-
     text of IP, and the timeline on her post social and political groups that existed                 sixth edition. Black’s current editor-in-chief   ited,” copyright law began changing in the
     suggests she addressed this issue 10 hours in that period. Its members saw their ac-              Bryan Garner simplified the definition in        late 18th century from being a publisher’s
     before Dubner. Better yet, her lede was tions as proper and legitimate. Further,                  the seventh edition, but the simplification      privilege to being an author’s right in his
     flat-out entertaining:                            few other communities considered peirato        did not alter the word’s basic, primary          or her creative and intellectual work.
                                                       as outlaws: The term was applied to tra-        meaning: violent theft at sea. The eighth,       Copyright changed again in the 19th cen-
             When I heard that “piracy” was            ditional Eastern Mediterranean societies        and current, edition of Black’s retains the      tury, evolving from being an author’s right
         the latest buzz word to light up the          that others had accepted as legitimate for      same primary definition as the seventh           to being considered a general ownership of
         world wide web, I thought for sure            at least 1,000 years.                           edition. In the end, the primary definition      creative works. This construct of general
         Lars Ulrich had summoned Con-                     The Oxford English Dictionary traces        of “piracy” throughout the history of Black’s    ownership, along with the nascent com-
         gress to bellyache about how fans             the first English appearance of the word        Law Dictionary has never meant anything          moditization of books, established copy-
         like Metallica’s music so much that           to John of Trevisa, an Oxford-educated          but violent theft at sea. This is consistent     right as the protective regime for origi-
         they—gasp—download it for their               translator of early encyclopedias. In 1387,     with part of the core definiti
To top