By Kembrew McLeod

About Kembrew McLeod

Kembrew McLeod is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He has published and produced several books and documentaries about music and popular culture, and his writings have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, and Rolling Stone. His book Freedom of Expression® received an American Library Association book award, and his documentary Copyright Criminals aired on PBS.

Copyright

Embedded within the word “copyright” is a simple and succinct self-definition. It means, quite literally, the right to copy. Unlike “intellectual property,” a term that did not come into common usage until the mid-twentieth century, “copyright” has been used for centuries, dating from 1735. The term accurately describes what this legal doctrine is and how it functions. Often understood as a synonym for “copyright,” “intellectual property” is actually a deceptive neologism. That is because copyrighted, patented, and trademarked works are not in fact property—they are instead protected by government-granted rights that are limited in how they can be enforced. The term “intellectual property” functions ideologically because it naturalizes an association with physical property that does not exist in law. This encourages many false analogies, such as the common claim that the unauthorized download of a song or a film is like breaking into someone’s car and driving it away. …

Ideologies, Money, Power
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