Who Owns This Sentence?: A History of Copyrights and Wrongs

Product Details
$28.99  $26.96
W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.1 X 1.5 inches | 1.27 pounds

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About the Author
Alexandre Montagu is a practicing lawyer and the founding partner of MontaguLaw, which focuses on intellectual property law, international commercial transactions, and new media commercial and corporate law. He lives in London.
David Bellos, the Meredith Howland Pyne Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton University, is an award-winning translator and biographer and the author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear? and The Novel of the Century. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
The story of copyright has many moving parts: history, literature, economics, politics, policy, and technology. Each element gets a closeup in this expertly told story of the evolution of copyright. In a time when billions of words are used to train AI models, this engaging and instructive book tells how different eras and countries have struggled with the challenge of defining ownership of texts.--James T. Hamilton, Hearst Professor of Communication, Stanford University
Bellos and Montagu's astonishingly capacious narrative is a gripping detective story, a flamboyant intellectual history, and a passionate manifesto for creative freedom, all rolled into one. You'll never think about copyright in the same way again.--Fara Dabhoiwala, historian and senior research scholar, Princeton University
By turns painstaking and playful, Bellos and Montagu reveal the patchwork of laws, norms, and assumptions that have transformed ideas into property. Copyright is no longer just about authors and the right to benefit from their work, but about big business and even bigger profits. Theirs is a compelling call to address the privatization of the global imagination.--Emily Drabinski, President, American Library Association
We often think of copyright as a form of justice, a means of ensuring that creators rather than pirates of works receive whatever compensation is on offer. This witty, informed and timely book urgently invites us to think otherwise. Copyright, the authors tell us, 'means more than it ever did before.' It takes in books, films, sheet music, computer programs and many other inventions, and yet it in the end 'it is an edifice of words.' This detailed history makes very lively reading, and also encourages action, since we could, if we wished, use different words.--Michael Wood, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Emeritus, Princeton University
In this madcap history from Plato to Donald Duck, from feudal Europe to Facebook, David Bellos and Alexandre Montagu have written the definitive account of where copyright came from and why it looks the way it does. Who Owns This Sentence? belongs on the bookshelf of every creator, producer, policymaker, and consumer.--Jason Mazzone, Albert E. Jenner, Jr. Professor of Law, University of Illinois
A gimlet-eyed analysis of a system that protects a corporate status quo at the expense of independent invention.-- "Kirkus Reviews"
Fascinating.... Bellos and Montagu have extracted an enormous amount of fun out of their subject, and have sauced sardonic and playful prose with buckets full of meticulously argued bile.--Simon Ings, The Telegraph (UK), 5-star review
Lively, opinionated, and ultra-timely.--Louis Menand "The New Yorker"
[Bellos and Montagu are] witty and learned.... [A] robust and readable polemic-history.--Boyd Tonkin "Financial Times"
The field of copyright has been full of dramatic turns, as a new book, Who Owns This Sentence?, recounts.-- "The Economist"
As this thoughtful book shows, copyright law has been revised and rewritten according to changing needs. The authors are right that we need a 'broad debate.'--Dominic Green "Wall Street Journal"
A surprisingly accessible recounting of the major twists and turns--and there are many!--surrounding this topic [copyright].... Well worth a read for anyone interested in history, publishing, or philosophy.--Mariko Hewer "Washington Independent Review of Books"
A fascinating new look at the patchwork chaos called copyright.--Anne Margaret Daniel, Spectator (UK)
David Bellos and Alexandre Montagu's surprisingly sprightly history Who Owns This Sentence? arrives with uncanny timing.... [B]y encouraging contemplation beyond specific pieces of what is now bleakly known as 'content, ' the book succeeds. Let's hope excerpts are hot out of the XeroxTM machine and being collated for college classrooms across the country.--Alexandra Jacobs "New York Times"
Thorough and engaging.... [A] welcome and timely addition to our understanding of this complex issue.--Mahvani Sunder "Washington Post"
In short, punchy chapters and witty prose, a lawyer and a literature professor untangle the history of how intellectual property has come to be protected--and who wins and loses in the bargain.--New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice