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In Praise of Copying

In Praise of Copying

Marcus Boon

ISBN 9780674072527

Publication date: 03/11/2013

This book is devoted to a deceptively simple but original argument: that copying is an essential part of being human, that the ability to copy is worthy of celebration, and that, without recognizing how integral copying is to being human, we cannot understand ourselves or the world we live in.

In spite of the laws, stigmas, and anxieties attached to it, the word “copying” permeates contemporary culture, shaping discourse on issues from hip hop to digitization to gender reassignment, and is particularly crucial in legal debates concerning intellectual property and copyright. Yet as a philosophical concept, copying remains poorly understood. Working comparatively across cultures and times, Marcus Boon undertakes an examination of what this word means—historically, culturally, philosophically—and why it fills us with fear and fascination. He argues that the dominant legal-political structures that define copying today obscure much broader processes of imitation that have constituted human communities for ages and continue to shape various subcultures today. Drawing on contemporary art, music and film, the history of aesthetics, critical theory, and Buddhist philosophy and practice, In Praise of Copying seeks to show how and why copying works, what the sources of its power are, and the political stakes of renegotiating the way we value copying in the age of globalization.


  • Despite its title, Marcus Boon’s book is not so much a manifesto as a philosophical meditation on…a world in which Chinese sneaker manufacturers make original Nikes during the day and fake Nikes at night; in which private copyright enforcers ‘bust’ copy shops for selling unauthorized university course packets, while Google Books posts the same texts online with impunity; in which a young student in Rwanda might use a laptop provided free by the Gates Foundation to distribute illegal copies of Microsoft software. In the midst of an astonishing abundance of copies, and almost limitless networks of duplication—what Boon calls copia, from a Latin word meaning plenitude—we suffer from a near-hysterical fear of unchecked duplication, in the form of ‘fakes,’ bootlegs, plagiarized assignments, counterfeit, or pirated goods… In Praise of Copying is too important, and too ambitious, to ignore.

    —Jess Row, New Republic


  • Marcus Boon is Professor of English at York University, Toronto.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 0-3/4 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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