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The Piracy Paradigm: Copyright Technology and What Happens When a Book is No Longer a “Book” at Boston Athenæum

October 10, 2019 | 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


The Piracy Paradigm: Copyright, Technology, and What Happens When a Book No Longer is a “Book”

with K. Matthew Dames

From the time the English Parliament passed the Licensing of the Press Act in 1662 to the current United States Copyright Act of 1976, copyright’s history and role have been inextricably bound to the history and role of the book. One of the main differences between 1662 and today, however, is how we define what constitutes a “book.” Is a “book” still a “written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers,” as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary? Or is it now something else? Must a book be bound? Must it have pages? Must it have a smell? What happens when a “book” moves from a shelf to a screen?

The answers to these questions not only are germane to how we view what a “book” is, but also to how we view copyright in a digitally connected world.

In this lecture, Dr. K. Matthew Dames will explore notions of technology, property, literacy, and commerce, ultimately forcing audience members to begin thinking more deeply about what happens at the intersection of media, law, and technology when foundational paradigms shift into unchartered territory.

  1. Matthew Dames currently serves as Boston University’s University Librarian and previously was Associate University Librarian at Georgetown University, leading a division that included special collections, principal collections, branch libraries, and the copyright and scholarly communications office.

Dames began his academic library career as founding director of Syracuse University’s Copyright and Information Policy Office, one of the nation’s first full-time university copyright offices. In this role, he authored Syracuse’s copyright policy, which has been copied in full or in part by more than 20 other American universities. He also founded the Association of Research Libraries’ UIPO listserv, which serves as a national network for copyright and scholarly communications officers in libraries and other cultural heritage institutions.

A lawyer and recipient of doctoral fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Dr. Dames conducts research on copyright law, policy, and history, emphasizing culture and norms of the media industries. He also was a 2018-19 Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership Fellow.


October 10, 2019
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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Boston Athenæum
10 ½ Beacon Street
Boston, MA United States
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Did You Know?

Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.