Wired Shut: Tarleton Gillespie

While the public and the media have been distracted by the story of Napster, warnings about the evils of “piracy,” and lawsuits by the recording and film industries, the enforcement of copyright law in the digital world has quietly shifted from regulating copying to regulating the design of technology. Lawmakers and commercial interests are pursuing what might be called a technical fix: instead of specifying what can and cannot be done legally with a copyrighted work, this new approach calls for the strategic use of encryption technologies to build standards of copyright directly into digital devices so that some uses are possible and others rendered impossible. In Wired Shut, Tarleton Gillespie examines this shift to “technical copy protection” and its profound political, economic, and cultural implications.

Now that Lawrence Lessig has announced that he is moving on to new academic and activist pastures, it must be time for the invention of postlessigism as a term? Anyway, Gillespie’s book (out this month) picks up on and expands Lessig’s work in Code, with a strong communications studies background (my thesis involves a similar blend, although with different elements of each). I’m looking forward to this book; what I’ve seen from extracts and lecture clips, it is a topic I’m quite familiar with, but having a book-length focused discussion of DRM and the technology/law/politics relationship is exciting.

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