Two New Essays on Rethinking Intellectual Property

I have essays in two new collections of work on intellectual property.  The first, “From the Right to Copy to Practices of Copying”, in the Rosemarie Coombe, Darren Wershler and Martin Zeilinger edited volume Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (University of Toronto Press, 2014) is an expansion on the conclusion of In Praise of Copying, which advocates a rethinking of intellectual property. We are living through fundamental shifts in the way in which human societies produce and share copies of things, such that we need to rethink intellectual property in a way that reflects the actual practices of copying that prevail today, rather than merely relying on legal definitions. I also advocate for certain legal reforms. Thinking about practices allows us to affirm that contemporary cultures of sharing are built around collective intentional acts, rather than simply being random transgressions of a self-evident law. The second essay, “Structures of Sharing: Depropriation and Intellectual Property Law”, in Intellectual Property Law for the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Approaches (Irwin Law, 2014) develops a specific aspect of the argument above, namely the problem of appropriation as it relates to intellectual property law.  I argue that current practices of copying force us to try to think beyond ideas of originals and copies as private property, and to imagine new ways of thinking about copies outside of discourses of ownership.  I elaborate the idea of depropriation, objects that have no owners or are collectively owned, through an analysis of the work of French film-maker Jean-Luc Godard, and think through how depropriation could be integrated into legal models of IP, beyond traditional models of fair use or fair dealing.

In Praise of Copying Translated into Korean and Indonesian

In Praise of Copying was translated and published in Korean and Indonesian editions this year.

The Korean edition was published by Hong C Communication, and translated with great diligence and care by Seungyoung Noh, who often seemed to know more about my book than I did.

The Indonesian edition was produced by the KUNCI Cultural Studies Center in Yogyakarta, making use of the Creative Commons license that the book was issued with in an interesting and to me exemplary way, producing an edition that is principally available as a free PDF via their website (much like the free PDF available from the Harvard website), as well as a print edition that is being distributed to community libraries across Indonesia.  Ferdi Thajib of the group described the project as follows:

“We are a collective who since 1999 have been engaging in popular education approaches aimed at widening public criticality  With this rather broad aim, our activities have revolved around the promotion of local knowledge production practices and functioning ourselves as a hub that connects academia, social activists, cultural producers and the public at large in meaningful encounters
Around one and a half years ago, we received funding from Ford Foundation Indonesia to initiate a project looking at issues of Media and Technology convergence, which includes a component of publication of translated books on cultures of sharing within the digital environment. That is how we became acquainted with Mr. Boon’s work. The whole project allows us to work on three books, namely: Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture (which was published last year), the second one (if permission granted of course) would be In Praise of Copying, and the third installment would be Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.
Our first reason for translating the three books is that they all provide key insights to explain what is going on in other parts of the world in regarding to issues such as copyright, copy culture, sharing culture, file-sharing, creative commons etc. –  issues that are not new for us in Indonesia, but which have not received adequate critical discussion. This is not so much because of the lack of criticality per se, but more a matter if language barriers. We feel that the rapid development of vocabularies related to internet architecture and the radical changes it has brought to the cultural facets of everyday life has not progressed hand in hand with its better understanding in local settings; not only in daily situations, but also in legal/governmental/ policy making environments.
The second reason is related to the respective content of each book. The selection of In Praise of Copying is prompted by some of the ideas that Mr. Boon has brought up, especially in how he shed light on the entanglement of copying with various forms of cultural production and understanding across the globe. I personally believe that the philosophical take of Mr Boon on copying that crisscrosses the East and West binary may speak a lot to our potential readers here.
And another reason is the practical consideration of the licensing system used in circulating the  work. As one of our goals is to educate people about the importance of sharing, most of the texts that we have produced and published are distributed under Creative Commons A-NC-SA, including the last publication of Free Culture in Indonesian.”

You can read Thajib’s analysis (with Australian media researcher Alexandra Crosby) of copyright, the commons and sharing networks in Indonesia here, and a more detailed analysis of these issues in relation to video activism in Indonesia in the media studies journal Platform.  Thajib and Crosby’s work resonates in intriguing ways with the studies presented in the excellent Media Piracy in Emerging Economies report — and suggests an important set of emerging practices of open source sharing/distribution that utilize Creative Commons licensing — in emerging economies.

MP3 Collecting Essay in New Book, Contemporary Collecting

I have an essay, “Meditations in an Emergency: On the Apparent Destruction of my MP3 Collection” in an excellent new anthology of essays called Contemporary Collecting: Objects, Practices and the Fate of Things, edited by David Banash and Kevin Moist.  It’s a great collection, and includes Stanley Cavell’s important essay on collecting, and nice work by Banash and others.  I got kind of obsessed with collecting while writing In Praise of Copying, since collectors are some of the most profound thinkers of the distinction between original and copy, or good copy and bad copy.  My essay is about what it means to lose and then try to restore a digital collection today, and is written in diary form, describing my own recent experiences with my MP3 collection.  On the one hand, it feels like data is infinitely retrievable today, and that collection is therefore quite banale (this is the argument that Simon Reynolds makes in his Retromania).  On the other hand, when you actually lose data, it turns out to be much more fragile, much more contingent than you thought.  But losing data can open us up to recognizing that, against the model of the private collector with his or her hoards, the basis of collection is sharing.  When the infrastructure that supports sharing really exists, our love of particular objects isn’t diminished, but our desire to hoard it is.

Update: The excellent PopMatters has just reprinted the essay in full here!

Cursing in Hip-Hop Essay in The Wire

I have an essay on obscene language in hip-hop in the latest issue of The Wire. It’s called “Dirty Talk”.  A lot of my recent favorites are referenced: various Odd Future acts, Azealia Banks, Zebra Katz, Danny Brown, Le1f.  The argument of the essay is about abjection, and the way that obscene language produces a kind of intimacy with something that can’t be talked about — and the way that music, as a form of vibration, is — that thing that can’t be talked about.  Having spent the last week listening a lot to the Kevin Gates record, I think I could have said a lot more about obscenity and violence, and the way that obscene language injects an almost physical force into language.  Well, to be continued …

This issue of The Wire has a lot going on: reflections on song by Rob Young, on improvisation by David Toop, Nina Power on digitized female voices and public address systems. Great to see the breadth of thinking there ….

NPR show on copies

Wisconsin’s NPR show To the Best of Our Knowledge  just broadcast an impressively wide ranging show about copies and copying including discussions with a variety of people about  architectural mimicry in China; identical twins; apocalypse memes; biotech dilemmas … and my own take on the topic.  My own thoughts turn increasingly to the issue of 3-D printers, which especially when linked to a 3D scanner, really radicalize what kinds of objects ordinary people can now copy in their home.  With nanotechnology slowly moving from hypothesis to reality, and the possibility of making copies that are accurate at the atomic level, the kinds of confusion of original and copy that we see happening today are going to increase exponentially.  Which again raises the question: why do we copy? What do we really want? And how does copying fit or not fit into the broader political-economic framework that we live in?

In Praise of Copying, now out in paperback!

In Praise of Copying was released today in that most or least arcane of formats: a paperback book!

Deleting Digital Collections Reading at Lake Forest Literary Festival, March 5

I’ll be reading a paper called “Meditations in an Emergency: On the Deletion of My MP3 Collection” on Tuesday, March 5 at the Lake Forest Literary Festival at Lake Forest College, outside of Chicago.  Thanks to my pal Davis Schneiderman, who I’m working with on a new edition of William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s collage manual The Third Mind, for the invite.  The festival will also feature the awesome work of Cecilia Corrigan and Lisa Robertson.

Speculative Approaches to Sonic Objects, Dancehall Style!

I have a new piece about sonic borders and boundaries in the excellent sound studies blog Sounding Out!, which is edited by my friend and colleague Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman.  As with a lot of my recent work about “the politics of vibration”, in this piece I try to think about what happens on a dancefloor in ontological terms and what it means to be able to access moments of ontological depth through bass, drums, speakers, partying bodies.  I look at the current revival of ballroom/voguing styles by artists like the fantastic Zebra Katz, and the way that some of the most interesting new hip-hop explores a strange. maybe speculative zone between Eros and violence on the one hand, and immersion in vibration on the other.

Radio Student Interview on Drugs in Literature and Theory

I just did an interview with Lana Durjava for Slovenian radio station Radio Student.  The introduction is in Slovenian, but starting around 9:40, the interview itself is in English. It’s very wide ranging, and we really get into the ways that specific drugs appear in history and in literature.

Politics of Vibration talk at McMaster, January 15!

Boon