Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture

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Wiley, Jan 17, 2005 - History - 309 pages
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"Anyone who cares about protecting the vitality of art and democratic culture in the digital age should read this important book."
— Pete Seeger

The stories would seem silly, embarrassing, or flat-out hilarious, if they weren't so frightening: ASCAP trying to charge the Girl Scouts for the rights to sing songs around a campfire; J.R.R. Tolkien's estate threatening to sue a children's entertainer for calling himself "Gandalf the Wizard Clown"; the J.M. Smucker Company accusing a competitor of infringing its patent on a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And, if you want to poke fun at Mickey Mouse, Barbie, or Miller Lite, you'd better have a battery of lawyers to back you up.

In Brand Name Bullies, David Bollier reveals the countless ways in which creativity, innovation, and free expression in American culture are under relentless assault from a new and rapacious breed of corporate bullies. He offers scores of examples of how copyright and trademark owners are using political influence, high-powered attorneys, and out-and-out intimidation to expand their control over our culture.

Bollier argues that the free flow of knowledge and ideas is crucial to creativity and progress in every field. Yet this essential ability to share and build upon the work of others is being stifled, marginalized, and criminalized by the forces of privatization. He cites numerous outrageous claims of "ownership" to all sorts of images, words, musical notes, letters, and even smells. Did you know that it is illegal to name a sporting event the "Gay Olympics" or a portable toilet business "Here's Johnny!"?

The drive to copyright and trademark virtually everything has a powerful impact on public discourse as well. Bollier uncovers attempts to lock up sports scores, bestseller lists, historic facts, and even Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Beware of using the phrase "Freedom of Expression"! A Massachusetts college student has already applied for and received a registered trademark for those words.

Brand Name Bullies makes a powerful case that the rapid and ongoing expansion of "intellectual property rights" is squelching creativity and limiting free expression. It prevents the creation of new music, art, and literature, and it inhibits new scientific research and business investment. This highly readable and chilling exposé sounds an urgent wake-up call for everyone who values our culture and wishes to keep the public domain out of the hands of the privatizers.

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Brand name bullies: the quest to own and control culture

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Society's growing mania to "propertize" every idea, image, sound and scent that impinges on our consciousness is ably dissected in this hilarious and appalling expose of intellectual property law ... Read full review

Review: Brand Name Bullies: The Quest to Own and Control Culture

User Review  - Kathleen - Goodreads

I'm not one of those alarmists who feel that creativity is "under attack" by the corporate world, but some corporations definitely are heavy-handed in protecting their IP and this seems like it would have some good examples. Read full review


Use Only as Directed
The Crusade to Lock Up Music
Creativity and Captive Images
Appropriating the Peoples Culture
PART TWO Trademarking Public Life 4 Trademark Owners Whine No Making Fun of Me
The Corporate Privatization of Words
Property Rights in Public Image
Stifling Public Dialogue through Copyright
The DMCAs Attacks on Free Speech
PART FOUR Absurd New Frontiers of Control
The Quest for Perfect Control
Intellectual Property Goes Over the Top
Just Kidding or Dead Serious?
Reclaiming the Cultural Commons

PART THREE The Copyright Wars against an Open Society
The Theft of the Public Domain

About the author (2005)

DAVID BOLLIER has worked for twenty years as a journalist, activist, and public policy analyst. He is cofounder of Public Knowledge, a public interest advocacy organization dedicated to defending the information commons, as well as Senior Fellow at the Norman Lear Center, USC Annenberg School for Communication. His previous book was Silent Theft: The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth.

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