Common As Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership

By Lewis Hyde.  Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  imagine for a moment if we could learn what the nation's Founders actually thought about the cultural commons as they went about crafting copyright and patent law. Imagine our surprise at learning that Benjamin Franklin was not just an iconic entrepreneur, but in fact America's "founding pirate," deeply committed to collaborative invention and the open sharing of knowledge. Consider the pleasure in discovering that Shakespeare and Shelley, Emerson and Thoreau, and Madison and Jefferson, are all grand figures who believe that creativity and culture properly belong to the commons.  You have just imagined Lewis Hyde's brilliant book, Common as Air, which reveals an arc of political history that has been all but obscured by popular mythologies. Hyde mixes scholarly depth with engaging style to give us a daring interpretation of the history of the cultural commons in American life.  My blog post:  "The Founders as Mashup Mavens."