Publisher Blurb: In 1998, university professor and professional prankster Kembrew McLeod trademarked the phrase "freedom of expression" as a joke, an amusing if dark way to comment on how intellectual property law is increasingly being used to fence off the culture and restrict the way we're allowed to express ideas. But what's happened in recent years to intellectual property law is no joke and has had repercussions on our culture and our everyday lives. The trend toward privatization of everything—melodies, genes, public space, English language—means an inevitable clash of economic values against the value of free speech, creativity, and shared resources. In Freedom of Expression®, Kembrew McLeod covers topics as diverse as hip-hop music and digital sampling, the patenting of seeds and human genes, folk and blues music, visual collage art, electronic voting, the Internet, and computer software. In doing so, he connects this rapidly accelerating push to pin down everything as a piece of private property to its effects on music, art, and science.
In much the same way that Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation tied together disparate topics through the narrative thread of the fast food business, and written in a witty style that brings to mind media pranksters like Al Franken, Ken Kesey, and Abbie Hoffman, Freedom of Expression® uses intellectual property law as the focal point to show how economic concerns are seriously eroding creativity and free speech.
Praise for Freedom of Expression®
“A very funny treatment of an increasingly serious problem: the use of intellectual property rights in ways that suppress instead of foster creativity.”
—William Fisher, Hale and Dorr Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Harvard University
“Freedom of Expression is one of the sharpest weapons in the culture wars being waged over the extensive protections now accorded to intellectual property. A lively read, the book brims with humor, juicy examples, and the voices of those whose creativity is threatened and endangered. If you had any doubts about the way intellectual property is shaping popular culture, Kembrew McLeod will dispel them. The privatization of culture has found its most trenchant critic.”
—Rosemary Coombe, author of The Cultural Life of Intellectual Properties
“People, this is it…. A must-read for anyone who wants to actually change the way digital culture operates.”
—Paul D. Miller aka. Dj Spooky that Subliminal Kid
“The ability of creators to parlay their expressive efforts with technology falls within a battleground that accountants, lawyers, and lawmakers dictate with barbed boundaries. That’s as impossible as owning the air itself, which Kembrew McLeod states and identifies clearly.”
—Chuck D, Public Enemy
“Professor McLeod’s book should be required reading for anyone concerned with having free speech and free press as the trademarks of Rupert Murdoch, Wall Street and the kingpins of Madison Avenue. The stakes are somewhat high — like the future of our society.”
—Robert W. McChesney, author of The Problem of the Media
“Kembrew McLeod has written a lively and funny book about life in the age of Intellectual Property Madness. In the spirit of Woody Guthrie himself, this book is your book.”
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of The Anarchist in the Library
About the Author
A journalist, activist, artist, and professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, KEMBREW McLEOD is the author of Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership, and Intellectual Property Law (Peter Lang, 2001) and has written music criticism for Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, Spin, and Mojo. He is also the coproducer of a 2001 documentary on the music industry, Money for Nothing: Behind the Business of Pop Music, and a documentary on intellectual property law, Copyright Criminals, which will be completed in 2005.