Brock University, Canada
Counterfeiting and piracy are consumer culture quagmires. By definition they refer to legal boundaries drawn around copying in market societies. To counterfeit is to copy or imitate in an unfavorable way. Piracy contravenes copyright, or the legal control extended to authors and producers over the reproduction of their creations. The assertion of these legal boundaries involves the separation of private rights from public interests, which is rarely clear-cut because each is profoundly intertwined in the other.
Counterfeiting is old and prevalent in all human cultures, yet becomes both apparent and politicized in societies that construct and inscribe authorship, publishing, and private property rights in law. Premodern oral cultures copied stories, songs, and plays with few concerns. According to popular culture historian Peter Burke (2009), these works had no ascribed authors. When sixteenth-century artists replicated master paintings, they were understood to be apprentices, not forgers. Literary critic Northrop Frye (2007) argues that Milton's poetry is a likely suspect of contravention, remarkable less for the author's rhetorical distinctiveness than for his reliance on the Bible, itself protected under contemporary copyright law. Poststructuralist literary critics such as Jacques Derrida challenge the very idea of an original, authentic, or genuine text. They reason that ...