With the rise of the information economy has come the development of an
industry devoted to policing that economy. It is a hybrid enterprise,
composed of both public institutions like the FBI and private companies
marketing protective and detective services. Its primary focus is the
defense and extension of intellectual property. But its scope extends
far beyond the upholding of copyrights and patents themselves, and,
although it remains largely unknown to the public, this industry has
substantially shaped many of the everyday practices that constitute our
culture of information. This paper will suggest a first account of how
the history of the information defense industry and that of information
infrastructures have shaped each other since the Enlightenment. In
doing so, it should throw new light on the nature of the controversies
that continue to dog this field today.
Adrian Johns is the author of Death of a Pirate: British and the Making of the Information Age (W.W. Norton, 2010), Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates (University of Chicago Press, 2009), and The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (University of Chicago Press, 1998).