Book Review: Creativity Without Law

by Raizel Liebler

Creativity Without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property (New York University Press 2017), an edited collection is an important contribution to the understanding of creative practices, both within and outside of legal frameworks. The excellent collection of academic essays edited by Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski includes discussions of recipes, tattoos, graffiti, and roller derby performers – as well as other forms of creativity.

All of the essays are interesting and informative, discussing the push-pull between “labor theory – the notion that the effort spent inventing, authoring, or composing demands the reward of property rights—and personality theory—the notion that one’s creations are a manifestation of the self and control over them is necessary for self-realization.” (3) And creating within a community with subcultural norms is essential for creators discussed throughout this book — an idea outside of traditional theories of IP production.

Of course, the two chapters that interest me the most are those that talk about these issues outside of the U.S. and about fandom. Olufunmilayo Arewa’s chapter, Nollywood: pirates and Nigerian cinema, delves into legal aspects of the Nigerian film industry, but the story is bigger than that – the “rise of Nollywood illustrates the revolutionary potential of digital technologies in Africa.” (230) Considering how much focus is only on Hollywood when considering copyright, it is important to see how other cultural industry loci work – from Nollywood, to Bollywood, to the South Korean pop culture machine and beyond. I would love to see more about these non-U.S./non-English creative industries, hopefully comparing and contrasting their reasons for success.

Considering she is the expert on fanfic and law, Rebecca Tushnet’s chapter, Architecture and morality: transformative works, transforming fans, gives an excellent overview of why fandom – and specifically the creativity of fanfic writers is important. Interestingly, Tushnet focuses on the importance of practice and play – two areas that aren’t usually discussed as values within IP.

Summary: Hopefully, the first in many books focusing on this new form of critical analysis of creativity and law. An important and essential guide! While this book should be used as a text in classes, all chapters are readable and interesting.

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