Non-Fiction Reviews

Intellectual Property
A Very Short Introduction

(2017) Siva Vaidhyanathan, Oxford Univeristy Press, 7.99 / US$11.95, trdpbk, xxi + 121pp, ISBN 978-0-195-37277-9


This book is probably one of the most that is unknowingly relevant to many of our site's regulars: scientists into science fiction.  As scientists and engineers we write technical papers that draws upon the works of others and undertake work that generates product if you will that is (hopefully) of intellectual value.  As SF enthusiasts, many of us will blog, contribute to zines, and perhaps even write fiction sometimes drawing upon characters from, and commenting on, others' books and television series or even write non-fiction about the same. In all these instances, whether we know it or not, we are either generating our own or impinging upon others' intellectual property rights and often both. And even if some of us do know it, do we know whether or not what we are doing is legal? In short Siva Vaidhyanathan book is truly relevant to many who will be/are reading this review.

What exactly is copyright? How and to whom does it bind people? Is a book title copyright or can you go and publish a book called War and Peace? What is fair use? What is the difference with trademarks? What is paracopyright? How does lending works fit in? What, if anything, can book or film reviewers reproduce? What are creative commons? All these are questions you might consider unimportant, until that is you unwittingly break them to the chagrin of the intellectual property owner who can bring legalities to bear on you. Siva Vaidhyanathan explains all.

Intellectual Property is part of Oxford University Press' valuable series of 'A Very Short Introduction' series of booklets. These booklets each have one or two key benefits which make them useful to have on one's bookshelf. The first is that many of the titles' topics have a certain curiosity value that one would like to addressed in a definitive but not a lengthy (or pricey) way. For example, I recently was intrigued to learn the fundamentals of Infinity though one of these booklets.

The other kind of value this series confers is that it provides a source of reference that is far more detailed than most other easy/quick access references (such as, say, Wikipedia). I find a number of these titles very useful as a reference and have a dozen within easy reach in my study.

Since the 1990s and the advent of developed nation household word processing, and the 2000s with the advent of work and home access to the internet, it has never been easier to both generate and disseminate works that have intellectual property value both of the generator's and others upon which the generator may draw upon. Whether you and I like it or not, there are legalities. Here, for which, this short guide is an eminently useful quick introduction. You may think this is a dry topic, but it may well be prudent for you to consider getting and then ordering this title.

Jonathan Cowie

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