Book Reviews : JAMES BOYLE, Shamans, Software, and Spleens: Law and the Construction of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 1996, 270 pp., £21.95 hbk

DOI10.1177/096466399700600308
449
BOOK
REVIEWS
JAMES
BOYLE,
Shamans,
Software,
and
Spleens:
Law
and
the
Construction
of
the
Information
Society.
Cambridge,
MA/London:
Harvard
University
Press,
1996,
270
pp., £21.95 hbk.
This
is
a
very
likeable
book.
Boyle
takes
on
some
big
ideas
in
an
ambitious
analysis
of
the
concepts
which
surround
the
legal
treatment
of
rights
in
information.
The
writing
is
lively,
and
he
moves
deftly
from
one
issue
to
the
next
in
an
engaging
fashion.
In
terms
of
its
comprehensive
treatment
of
a
gamut
of
issues
which
the
recognition
of
an
’information
culture’
raises,
the
book
is
an
achievement.
Boyle
sets
out
to
show
that
our
social
construction
of
reality
is
such
as
to
confer
property
rights
in
information
on
those
’who
come
closest
to
the
image
of
the
roman-
tic
author’
(p.
x),
and
he
lays
out
the
consequence
of
such
a
view
in
an
organized
and
circumspect
manner.
As
might
be
expected,
the idea
that
an
ideological
commitment
to
the
ideal
of
the
romantic
author
resolves
inherent
tensions
in
doctrine
and
dis-
course,
works
best
in
the
case
of
copyright.
As
far
as
it
goes,
Boyle’s
claim
that
the
idea/expression
dichotomy
succeeds
to
the
extent
that
it
does
because
it
is
under-
pinned
by
a
romantic
idea
of
authorship,
is
sound
enough. If
an
author’s
expression
is
a
manifestation
of
his
unique
individual
genius,
then
granting
an
author
rights
in
expression,
but
not
in
the
very
ideas
expressed,
accords
to
the
individual
what
is
truly
personal
without
infringing
the
public
right
to
raw
material
which
permeates
the
culture,
the
ideas
themselves.
Thus
we
have
an
apparently
just
basis
for
limited
prop-
erty
rights,
which
respects
the
rights
of
both
the
public
and
individual
creator
and
which
matches
quite
closely
the
labour
theory
of
property
(pp.
56-8).
Boyle’s
characterization
of
the
romantic
author,
however,
is
terribly
thin.
The
closest
we
get
to
an
explicit
description
is
this:
’The
romantic
author
was
defined
not
by
the
mastery
of
a
prior
set
of
rules
[like
the
journeyman
who
learned
a
craft],
but
instead
by
the
transformation
of
genre,
the
revision
of
form
(p.
54).
Well,
perhaps.
There
is,
however,
the
romantic
notion
which
reveres
the
expression
of
individual
per-
sonality
(which
has
a
very
enlightenment
flavour),
and
this
is
not
at
all
equivalent
to
the
worship
of
rule-defiance
and
genre-busting
(which
has
more
the
flavour
of
late-
nineteenth/twentieth-century
avant-gardism).
The
distinction
is
important
for
one
who
wishes
to
see
the
romantic
author
behind
the
idea/expression
dichotomy,
for
only
the
former
version
is
visible.
Consider:
on
a
simple
’but
for’
test,
most
people
would
say
that
but
for
Picasso,
there
would
be
no
Majolie,
but
would
not
agree
that
but
for
Picasso
there
would
be
no
cubist
painting.
Surely
this
is
right;
the
former
is

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