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Vaidhyanathan, Siva 1966-


PERSONAL: Born June 19, 1966, in Buffalo, NY; son of Vishnampet S. (a professor of biophysics and physiology) and Virginia Ann (a bank officer; maiden name, Evans) Vaidhyanathan; married Melissa Ann Henriksen (a cancer researcher), August 2, 2003. Education: University of Texas at Austin, B.A., 1994, Ph.D., 1999.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew York, NY. Office—Department of Culture and Communications, New York University, East Building Suite 735, 239 Greene St., New York, NY 10003-6674; fax: 212-995-4046. E-mail—

CAREER: Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX, reporter, 1988; Austin American-Statesman, Austin, TX, reporter, 1989-91; Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX, reporter, 1992; Concordia University, Austin, history lecturer, 1996; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, visiting assistant professor of history, 1998-99; New York University, New York, NY, faculty fellow and assistant professor, 1999-2001, assistant professor of culture and communication and director of undergraduate program, 2002—; University of Wisconsin, Madison, assistant professor of information studies, 2001-02.

MEMBER: Modern Language Association (delegate assembly representative, 1996-98), American Studies Association (students committee, 1995-97, chair of Wise Susman Prize and Baxter travel grant committee, 2001).

AWARDS, HONORS: Professional Development Award, University of Texas, 1994, 1995, 1996; Quarry Farm fellow and scholar-in-residence, Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College, 1997; Merit Award, New York University Department of Culture and Communications, 2000.


Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Cultural historian and media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan has a particular interest in copyright laws and the impact they have on free speech and artistic expression. In Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity he provides an historical and legal overview of the subject and offers suggestions for improving a system he views as terribly flawed. "In chapters that interrogate Mark Twain's and D. W. Griffith's roles in the history of American copyright law, along with others that explore the more contemporary issues of sampling in hip-hop music and the protection of intellectual property on the Internet, Vaidhyanathan both reveals the unequal power relations inherent in our copyright laws and charts the logic by which they have developed," explained William S. Walker in the Journal of Popular Culture. While acknowledging the legitimate interests of both artists and owners, Vaidhyanathan fears that copyright laws too often favor large corporations and established artists over more innovative, less wealthy cultural contributors. Entire movie productions can come to a halt over an obscure copyright on a lyric, a sculpture, or an image, a system that can be particularly hard on independent filmmakers. He would like to see the nation move toward what he calls "thin copyright protection," a looser framework that encourages the free flow of ideas while preserving legitimate claims to compensation. "Copyright struggles are not new, but they are rich and often entertaining, much like author Siva Vaidhyanathan's work," noted Dwayne K. Buttler in Portal. "His insight into modern challenges is perceptive and welcome in an evolving digital world."

Vaidhyanathan focuses on this digital age in The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System. As the author sees it, the information age is increasingly divided between an oligarchy of corporate giants, politicians, judges, and regulators, and "anarchists," including hackers, students, civil libertarians, and even librarians. In the face of rigid copyright protection and the increasing commodification of knowledge, these dissidents have developed peer-to-peer networking, open-source programming, and other methods for leveling the playing field and keeping the World Wide Web as free as possible. The stakes are very high, and not just with regard to the Internet. Vaidhyanathan sees a worldwide struggle between forces of control and liberation, and draws on analogies from political, cultural, and religious history to explore what he sees as a defining fault line in the twenty-first century. Rather than offering any quick fixes or technological solutions, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor, the author argues "that the friction between anarchy and the desire for control now highlighted by technology is an essential element in the creation of culture."



American Prospect, January 28, 2002, George Scialabba, review of Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity, p. 36.

Booklist, September 15, 2001, Vernon Ford, review of Copyrights and Copywrongs, p. 170.

Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2, 2002, "Copyright as Cudgel."

Journal of Popular Culture, February, 2004, William S. Walker, review of Copyrights and Copywrongs, p. 536.

Library Journal, August, 2001, Joan Pedzick, review of Copyrights and Copywrongs, p. 135.

New York Times, May 8, 2004, Edward Rothstein, "Liberty, Technology, Duty: Where Peace Overlaps War,"p.B9.

Portal, April, 2003, Dwayne K. Buttler, review of Copyrights and Copywrongs, p. 350.

Publishers Weekly, April 19, 2004, review of The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System, p. 54.


New York University Web site, (November 22, 2004), "Siva Vaidhyanathan."*

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