Illegal Literature has arrived (updated w/ reviews)!
Roh’s work offers a number of valuable insights. The ardent defense of copyright on a broad scale, he suggests, isn’t so much about protecting specific works as it is about resisting a changing cultural logic that no longer values the ideology of single author genius. There’s a clash of cultures that’s gathering speed and intensity: copyright culture, which is trying to preserve control of ideas and financial incentives for individual creators, versus an emerging culture that’s grown up in a world of interconnected horizontal networks, derivative texts, and open source models where original authorship is valued less than the potential a work has for being built upon by others.
I think this is my favorite line:
Roh doesn’t mince his words (although he deploys plenty of fancy ones, which renders his work most accessible to an academic audience).
All chapters offer a good mix of enthusiastic acclaim of openness (or illegality, according to the perspective of those who stick to a rigid interpretation of authorship as ownership) and critical distance towards naïve libertarianism. Together with the excellent theoretical framing of illegal culture in the broader context of dialogism and parody, this awareness of pros and cons of either position makes Roh’s book a stimulating contribution to a key contemporary debate that is certainly here to stay for many years. (link)
From the jacket copy:
What is the cultural value of illegal works that violate the copyrights of popular fiction? Why do they persist despite clear and stringent intellectual property laws? Drawing on the disciplines of new media, law, and literary studies, Illegal Literature suggests that extralegal works such as fan fiction are critical to a system that spurs the evolution of culture.
Reconsidering voices relegated to the cultural periphery, David S. Roh shows how infrastructure—in the form of legal policy and network distribution—slows or accelerates the rate of change. He analyzes the relationship between intellectual property rights and American literature in two recent copyright disputes. And, in comparing American fan fiction and Japanese dojinshi, he illustrates how infrastructure and legal climates detract from or encourage fledgling creativity.
Illegal Literature fills a crucial gap between the scholarly and the popular by closely examining several modes of marginalized cultural production. Roh makes the case for protecting an environment conducive to literary heresy, the articulation of an accretive rather than solitary authorial genius, and the idea that letting go rather than holding on is important to a generative creative process. In a media ecology inundated by unauthorized materials, Illegal Literature argues that the proliferation of unsanctioned texts may actually benefit literary and cultural development.