J.D. Lasica today has a nifty review of David Bollier's Brand Name Bullies -- a book that should be at the very top of everyone's reading list:
Bollier, a co-founder of the public interest group Public Knowledge, has written a darkly funny, accessible account of horror stories and outrages both large and small. A few years back, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers send out letters to 288 camps in the American Camping Association, demanding that Brownies and Girl Scouts stop singing copyrighted songs like "Blowin' in the Wind" or "Row, Row, Row" unless the camping groups ponied over thousands of dollars in licensing fees.
The press had a field day with the story. Pro basketball player Shaquille O'Neal offers to pay a camp's royalties for 10 years. BMI offered to license its 3 million songs to the Girl Scouts for nothing. Duly chastened, ASCAP backed down.
Some of these issues -- such as mash-ups, fan fiction, The Grey Album or the Eldred decision -- will be familiar to those who have followed the recent shenanigans in IP law. (Indeed, as I write this review, I'm listening to John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" -- a melody that would be outlawed had it been recorded today.) But Bollier's chief purpose here is to introduce these stories to a wider audience. Few of the tales have the happy ending that the Girl Scouts enjoyed.
This is great book for explaining to friends and colleagues why we need to restore common-sense balance to the copyright system. Highly recommended!