Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Birnhack's "Colonial Copyright"

Michael D. Birnhack, Professor of Law, Tel-Aviv University, has just published Colonial Copyright: Intellectual Property in Mandate Palestine with the Oxford University Press.  As the Press explains:
More than a century ago, when the British discussed colonial copyright, they meant their own interests in the colonies. They hardly referred to the local cultural and legal interests. Until recently, scholarly engagement with colonial copyright still followed the imperial path of the nineteenth century, and was told almost exclusively from a British, imperial point of view. This book reverses the perspective and provides an account as seen and understood from the colonized side.

This book explores the legal history of copyright law in the British Empire, during the first decades of the twentieth century by focusing on Mandate Palestine (1917–48) as a leading case study. It is a story about the use of law as a tool to secure British interests throughout the Empire, but also as a tool applied to promote progress and culture, at least according to the imperial vision of culture.

Colonial copyright is the widespread imposition of copyright law throughout the British Empire. It occurred when a foreign power exported its own legal toolkit from home and applied it to territories and its peoples, previously unfamiliar with the idea of legal protection for creative works, at least not in the form today known as copyright. Accordingly, Colonial Copyright is a legal and cultural category about the diffusion and transplanting of the legal field that regulates some of the main institutional aspects of culture, under conditions of an imperial rule.
Birnhack tells us that he believes the book will interest “copyright scholars, media historians, students of colonialism, and historians of the British Empire and particularly Mandate Palestine.”

Blurbs after the jump:
Michael Birnhack's Colonial Copyright breaks new ground in the increasingly popular field of IP history by moving away from a focus on Britain, Europe, and the US and probing how copyright norms were transplanted into colonial settings. In this fascinating account of copyright's operation in Palestine between the 1920s and establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Birnhack provides a wonderfully-researched and legally-sophisticated account of how copyright was (and was not) deployed in the fields of publishing, performing rights, broadcasting, and journalism.

- Lionel Bently, Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property, University of Cambridge

This is a groundbreaking history of copyright law in British-ruled Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century. Birnhack provides a rich and detailed description of emergence of copyright norms based on a remarkable range of sources. The story is told from a number of different perspectives - British, Jewish and Arab - and contains many fascinating episodes and actors. The book will prove indispensable to legal historians as well as comparative lawyers, students of nationalism and colonialism, historians of culture and technology and anyone interested in legal globalisation.

- Assaf Likhovski, Tel-Aviv University Faculty of Law