A Critical Guide to Intellectual Property

Edited by Mat Callahan and Jim Rogers


A wide-ranging critique of the concept and practice of intellectual property.

Ours is an era when human genes can be copied and patented. From genetically modified foods to digital piracy, the concept of intellectual property (IP) and the laws upholding it play a foundational role in our society, but its political and ideological dimensions have rarely been understood outside of specialist circles. This collection cuts through the legal jargon that so often surrounds IP, to provide both a comprehensive history and analysis that explores the corporate interests that shape its conception and the movements that are developing alternatives.

As the nature of industry changes, we might ask: what are the wider implications of the concept of IP, be it for agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies or the film and music industries? Has IP law has been used to safeguard and assert the ownership of ideas and creativity, or is it an essential foundation of our culture?

Today, with mounting challenges from the growth of free software and open source movements, this collection provides an accessible and alternative guide to IP, exploring its significance within the wider struggle between capital and the commons.

Author Bio

Mat Callahan is a musician, author, and member of the radical artists’ collective Komotion International. His previous books include Sex, Death and the Angry Young Man (1993) and The Trouble With Music (2005). www.matcallahan.com

Jim Rogers is a lecturer at the School of Communications, Dublin City University. His first book is The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age (2013).

Table of Contents

  • 1. Why Intellectual Property? Why Now? - Mat Callahan and Jim Rogers
  • 2. Running Through the Jungle: My Introduction to Intellectual Property - Mat Callahan
  • Part I: Historical Context and Conceptual Frameworks
    • 3. Intellectual Property Rights and their Diffusion around the World: Towards a Global History - Colin Darch
    • 4. The Political Economy of Intellectual Property - Michael Perelman
    • 5. I Am Because I Own vs. I Am Because We Are - Mat Callahan
  • Part II: Terrains of Conflict and Terms of Engagement
    • 6. Owning up to Owning Traditional Knowledge of Medicinal Plants - Josef A. Brinckmann
    • 7. Using Human Rights to Move Beyond Reformism to Radicalism: A2K for Schools, Libraries and Archives - Caroline B. Ncube
    • 8. Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Copyright and Continuity in the Contemporary Music Economy - Jim Rogers
    • 9. Free Software and Open Source Movements from Digital Rebellion to Aaron Swartz: Responses to Government and Corporate Attempts at Suppression and Enclosure - Paul McKimmy
  • Part III: Law, Policy and Jurisdiction
    • 10. Rethinking the World Intellectual Property Organization - Deborah Halbert
    • 11. What is Intellectual Property? - Blayne Haggart
    • 12. Piracy, States and the Legitimation of Authority - Mat Callahan
    • 13. Summary and Concluding Remarks - Mat Callahan and Jim Rogers


‘Combining analytical and narrative approaches, this book is an excellent way to get to grips with the current political economy of intellectual property.’
Christopher May, Lancaster University

‘Callahan and Rogers have put together a critical guide that tells the truth about intellectual property. Everybody should read it.’
Peter Drahos, Australian National University

‘Unwraps intellectual property’s supposed enigma in an accessible fashion. Power, profits, piracy: all are explored here with real arguments and facts. Provocative.’
Alan Story, University of Kent (retd)

‘The idea of Intellectual Property is, quite literally, an attempt to monopolize ideas. In this exciting volume, the ideological basis of IP is critiqued, and the options for resistance examined.’
John Quiggin, University of Queensland

'A Critical Guide… is as much a handbook that suggests radical thought and action as it is an intellectuals’ guide to intellectual property.'
Jonah Raskin, Socialism and Democracy


Publication Date: 15 October 2017
292 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786991133
Hardback: 9781786991140
eBook ePub: 9781786991164
eBook PDF: 9781786991157
eBook Kindle: 9781786991171

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