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Featured Acquisitions - May 2013

 

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Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remarking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century by Alex Sayf Cummings
New York: Oxford University Press 2013
KF3035 .C86 2013 Balcony

It was a time when music fans copied and traded recordings without permission. An outraged music industry pushed Congress to pass anti-piracy legislation. Yes, that time is now; it was also the era of Napster in the 1990s, of cassette tapes in the 1970s, of reel-to-reel tapes in the 1950s, even the phonograph epoch of the 1930s. Piracy, it turns out, is as old as recorded music itself.

In Democracy of Sound, Alex Sayf Cummings uncovers the little-known history of music piracy and its sweeping effects on the definition of copyright in the United States. When copyright emerged, only visual material such as books and maps were thought to deserve protection; even musical compositions were not included until 1831. Once a performance could be captured on a wax cylinder or vinyl disc, profound questions arose over the meaning of intellectual property. Is only a written composition defined as a piece of art? If a singer performs a different interpretation of a song, is it a new and distinct work? Such questions have only grown more pressing with the rise of sampling and other forms of musical pastiche. Indeed, music has become the prime battleground between piracy and copyright. It is compact, making it easy to copy. And it is highly social, shared or traded through social networks--often networks that arise around music itself. But such networks also pose a counter-argument: as channels for copying and sharing sounds, they were instrumental in nourishing hip-hop and other new forms of music central to American culture today. Piracy is not always a bad thing.An insightful and often entertaining look at the history of music piracy, Democracy of Sound offers invaluable background to one of the hot-button issues involving creativity and the law.


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13 Ways to Steal a Bicycle by Stuart P. Green
Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 2012
K5217 .G74 2012 Balcony

Theft claims more victims and causes greater economic injury than any other criminal offense. Yet theft law is enigmatic, and fundamental questions about what should count as stealing remain unresolved especially misappropriations of intellectual property, information, ideas, identities, and virtual property.

In Thirteen Ways to Steal a Bicycle, Stuart Green assesses our current legal framework at a time when our economy increasingly commodifies intangibles and when the means of committing theft and fraud grow ever more sophisticated. Was it theft for the editor of a technology blog to buy a prototype iPhone he allegedly knew had been lost by an Apple engineer in a Silicon Valley bar? Was it theft for doctors to use a patient’s tissue without permission in order to harvest a valuable cell line? For an Internet activist to publish tens of thousands of State Department documents on his Web site?

In this full-scale critique, Green reveals that the last major reforms in Anglophone theft law, which took place almost fifty years ago, flattened moral distinctions, so that the same punishments are now assigned to vastly different offenses. Unreflective of community attitudes toward theft, which favor gradations in blameworthiness according to what is stolen and under what circumstances, and uninfluenced by advancements in criminal law theory, theft law cries out for another reformation and soon.


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Constitution for a Disunited Nation: On Hungary’s 2011 Fundamental Law edited by Gabor Atilla Toth
Budapest; New York: Central European University Press 2012
KKF2064.52011 .C66 2012 Basement

An analysis of Hungary’s Fundamental Law.

 

 

 


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The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy by Michael J. Gerhardt
New York: Oxford University Press 2013
KF5051 .G47 2013 Balcony

Their names linger in memory mainly as punch lines, synonyms for obscurity: Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge. They conjure up not the White House so much as a decaying middle school somewhere in New Jersey. But many forgotten presidents, writes Michael J. Gerhardt, were not weak or ineffective. They boldly fought battles over constitutional principles that resonate today. Gerhardt, one of our leading legal experts, tells the story of The Forgotten Presidents. He surveys thirteen administrations in chronological order, from Martin Van Buren to Franklin Pierce to Jimmy Carter, distinguishing political failures from their constitutional impact. Again and again, he writes, they defied popular opinion to take strong stands. Martin Van Buren reacted to an economic depression by withdrawing federal funds from state banks in an attempt to establish the controversial independent treasury system. His objective was to shrink the federal role in the economy, but also to consolidate his power to act independently as president. Prosperity did not return, and he left office under the shadow of failure. Grover Cleveland radically changed his approach in his second (non-consecutive) term. Previously he had held back from interference with lawmakers; on his return to office, he aggressively used presidential power to bend Congress to his will. Now seen as an asterisk, Cleveland consolidated presidential authority over appointments, removals, vetoes, foreign affairs, legislation, and more. Jimmy Carter, too, proves surprisingly significant. In two debt-ceiling crises and battles over the Panama Canal treaty, affirmative action, and the First Amendment, he demonstrated how the presidency's inherent capacity for efficiency and energy gives it an advantage in battles with Congress, regardless of popularity. Incisive, myth-shattering, and compellingly written, this book shows how even obscure presidents championed the White House's prerogatives and altered the way we interpret the Constitution.


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The Reagan-Gorbachev Arms Control Breakthrough: The Treaty Eliminating Intermediate-Range Nculear Force (INF) Missiles edited by David T. Jones
Washington, DC: New Academia Pub: Vellum, 2012
KZ5662.25 .R43 2012 Sohn Collection

This book analyzes the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear force missiles through vivid, fresh impressions by those who conducted the INF negotiations. It brings this period to life through the writing of key participants in the seminal negotiations leading to the completion of the INF Treaty and the ensuing epic struggle to secure its ratification by the U.S. Senate. The book provides an astute balance between the assessments of senior negotiators; nuts and bolts observations on specific elements of the Treaty by in-the-trenches negotiators; the tangles that challenged the keenest of legal minds; and the political maneuvers required to bring it through the pits and deadfalls of the Senate. Additionally, The Reagan-Gorbachev Arms Control Breakthrough provides an often-forgotten perspective of the moment, offering the opportunity for retrospective judgment. Is there a test that time demands? Are there lessons learned, conceived at the time, that still pass that test? The INF Treaty was a pivotal moment in history, which was seized and resulted in a precedent-setting agreement and coincidental lessons from which much of arms control of the past quarter century has advantageously built.


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John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court: Circuit Riding in the Old Southwest by Steven P. Brown
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012
KF8745.M38 B76 2012 Balcony

John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court presents a portrait of US Supreme Court justice John McKinley (1780–1852) and provides a penetrating analysis of McKinley’s time and place, the exigencies of his circuit work, and the contributions he made to both American legal history and Alabama.

Steven P. Brown rescues from obscurity John McKinley, one of the three Alabama justices, along with John Archibald Campbell and Hugo Black, who have served on the US Supreme Court. A native Kentuckian who moved in 1819 to northern Alabama as a land speculator and lawyer, McKinley was elected to the state legislature three times and became first a senator and then a representative in the US Congress before being elevated to the Supreme Court in 1837. He spent his first five years on the court presiding over the newly created Ninth Circuit, which covered Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. His was not only the newest circuit, encompassing a region that, because of its recent settlement, included a huge number of legal claims related to property, but it was also the largest, the furthest from Washington, DC, and by far the most difficult to traverse.
While this is a thorough biography of McKinley’s life, it also details early Alabama state politics and provides one of the most exhaustive accounts available of the internal workings of the antebellum Supreme Court and the very real challenges that accompanied the now-abandoned practice of circuit riding. In providing the first in-depth assessment of the life and Supreme Court career of Justice John McKinley, Brown has given us a compelling portrait of a man active in the leading financial, legal, and political circles of his day.


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Regulating Code: Good Governance and Better Regulation in the Information Age by Ian Brown and Christopher T. Marsden
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2013
K564.C6 B76 2013 Balcony

Internet use has become ubiquitous in the past two decades, but governments, legislators, and their regulatory agencies have struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing Internet technologies and uses. In this groundbreaking collaboration, regulatory lawyer Christopher Marsden and computer scientist Ian Brown analyze the regulatory shaping of "code" -- the technological environment of the Internet -- to achieve more economically efficient and socially just regulation. They examine five "hard cases" that illustrate the regulatory crisis: privacy and data protection; copyright and creativity incentives; censorship; social networks and user-generated content; and net neutrality.

The authors describe the increasing "multistakeholderization" of Internet governance, in which user groups argue for representation in the closed business-government dialogue, seeking to bring in both rights-based and technologically expert perspectives. Brown and Marsden draw out lessons for better future regulation from the regulatory and interoperability failures illustrated by the five cases. They conclude that governments, users, and better functioning markets need a smarter "prosumer law" approach. Prosumer law would be designed to enhance the competitive production of public goods, including innovation, public safety, and fundamental democratic rights.


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Constitutional Myths: What We Get Wrong and How to Get It Right by Ray Raphael
New York: The New Press, 2013
KF4541 .R375 2013 Balcony

With the entry of the Tea Party onto the US political scene, America's Constitution has become a political battleground, with liberals and conservatives trading fire over its meaning and intent. Amid all the hubbub, historian Ray Raphael was struck by how much both sides got wrong, and how falsehoods have largely overtaken history in Americans' understanding of the nation's most important document. In Constitutional Myths, he sorts out the truth from fiction, juxtaposing what historians know about the Constitution with what most Americans and politicians think they know.


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Wartime: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences by Mary L. Dudziak
Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
U21.2 .D75 2012 Basement

When is wartime? On the surface, it is a period of time in which a society is at war. But we now live in what President Obama has called "an age without surrender ceremonies," as the Administration announced an "end to conflict in Iraq," even though conflict on the ground is ongoing. It is no longer easy to distinguish between wartime and peacetime. In this inventive meditation on war, time, and the law, Mary Dudziak argues that wartime is not as discrete a time period as we like to think. Instead, America has been engaged in some form of ongoing overseas armed conflict for over a century. Meanwhile policy makers and the American public continue to view wars as exceptional events that eventually give way to normal peace times. This has two consequences. First, because war is thought to be exceptional, "wartime" remains a shorthand argument justifying extreme actions like torture and detention without trial. Second, ongoing warfare is enabled by the inattention of the American people. More disconnected than ever from the wars their nation is fighting, public disengagement leaves us without political restraints on the exercise of American war powers.


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Learning to Love Form 1040: Two Cheers for the Return-Based Mass Income Tax by Lawrence Zelenak
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013
KF6369.85 .Z454 2013 Balcony

No one likes paying taxes, much less the process of filing tax returns. For years, would-be reformers have advocated replacing the return-based mass income tax with a flat tax, federal sales tax, or some combination thereof. Congress itself has commissioned studies on the feasibility of a system of exact withholding. But might the much-maligned return-based taxation method serve an important yet overlooked civic purpose?

In Learning to Love Form 1040, Lawrence Zelenak argues that filing taxes can strengthen fiscal citizenship by prompting taxpayers to reflect on the contract they have with their government and the value—or perceived lack of value—they receive in exchange for their money. Zelenak traces the mass income tax to its origins as a means for raising revenue during World War II. Even then, debates raged over the merits of consumption-based versus income taxation, as well as whether taxes should be withheld from payroll or paid at the time of filing. The result is the income tax system we have today—a system whose maddening complexity, intended to accommodate citizens in widely different circumstances, threatens to outweigh any civic benefits.

If sitcoms and political cartoons are any indication, public understanding of the income tax is badly in need of a corrective. Zelenak clears up some of the most common misconceptions and closes with suggestions for how the current system could be substantially simplified to better serve its civic purpose.