Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lethem on the joys of "second-use"

Jonathan Lethem's thought-piece "The Ecstasy of Influence" running in February's Harper's Magazine is an insightful (charming, perhaps) take on American copyright law. "A time is marked not so much by ideas that are argued about as by ideas that are taken for granted. The character of an era hangs upon what needs no defense." This wisdom prompts Lethem to open a new dialogue for the revision of copyright law in what he says should be "an ongoing social negotiation." Along with the necessity to keep ideas active and relevant, he cites the joys of "second-use" as reason enough to question the extensive (blind) reach of copyright law.

His argument is vast, nuanced, and required four sittings for me to finish. If I've been a little dry, check this quick interview he did with Publisher's Weekly: "Lethem on Plagiarism."

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