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The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright Law and the Regulation of Digital Culture (Routledge, 2010)

Author: Jessica Reyman

The availability of digital recording technologies, social networking media, and distributed file sharing systems has forever changed the expectations of everyday users with regard to digital content. At the same time, however, U.S. copyright law has shown a decided trend toward more restrictions over what we are able to do online. As a result, a gap has emerged between the reality of copyright law and the social reality of our everyday creative activities. 

Intellectual property scholars in rhetoric and composition and members of the CCCC Intellectual Property Caucus, since its inception in 1994, have recognized the importance of copyright law for writing practices and the teaching of writing. Recently, these scholars have taken an interest in what might be called “the rhetoric of intellectual property,” examining the public and legal discourse that has proliferated in high-profile debates about copyright law on the Internet. Such study is of interest to composition scholars and instructors who want to know, how does copyright law change or impede cultural production on the Internet? And how does the rhetoric of the digital copyright debate shape the future of digital culture?

In an attempt to address these difficult questions, Jessica Reyman’s The Rhetoric of Intellectual Property: Copyright Law and the Regulation of Digital Culture <http://www.routledge.com/9780415999076> (Routledge, 2010) identifies the public and legal stories told about copyright law in a digital age, analyzes the rhetoric behind recent legal developments, and challenges the underlying claims about the role of technology in creative and intellectual activity.Through an analysis of the contemporary legal and public debate about copyright, this book shows how the stories told by participants shape our cultural understanding of the role of the Internet in cultural production.Reyman examines the rhetoric at work in recent and ongoing battles over digital copyright, including the regulation of peer-to-peer technology development in MGM Studios v. Grokster and the anti-piracy messages circulating on college campuses to curb unauthorized file sharing. Reyman argues that the rhetoric of the digital copyright debate, namely the rhetorical positioning of technology as destructive to creative and intellectual production, has profound implications for the future of composition, creativity online, and digital culture.

This book offers a broad look at the history of intellectual property studies in rhetoric and composition and establishes the importance of such work for writing teachers and scholars. Debates about copyright law influence who participates in online writing practices and in what ways. This book offers to newcomers and seasoned intellectual property scholars alike an in-depth discussion of the power of rhetoric in shaping a debate over copyright law that has profound implications for authorship, textual ownership, and writing in a digital age.

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