Cover of Promises to Keep by William W. Fisher III
Promises to Keep
Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment
William W. Fisher III


352 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804750134
Paperback ISBN: 9780804758451
Ebook ISBN: 9780804763264


Excerpts and More

Honorable Mention in the 2004 Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communication Policy Research , sponsored by The Donald McGannon Communication Research Center.

During the past fifteen years, changes in technology have generated an extraordinary array of new ways in which music and movies can be produced and distributed. Both the creators and the consumers of entertainment products stand to benefit enormously from the new systems. Sadly, we have failed thus far to avail ourselves of these opportunities. Instead, much energy has been devoted to interpreting or changing legal rules in hopes of defending older business models against the threats posed by the new technologies. These efforts to plug the multiplying holes in the legal dikes are failing and the entertainment industry has fallen into crisis. This provocative book chronicles how we got into this mess and presents three alternative proposals—each involving a combination of legal reforms and new business models—for how we could get out of it.

About the author

William W. Fisher III is the Hale and Dorr Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

"Digital technologies have given society an extraordinary cultural potential. If that potential is to be made real, we must reconcile it with the legitimate and important claims of copyright. In this beautifully written and careful work, Fisher, more completely than anyone else, maps the choices that we might make. He argues for a choice that would produce enormous social good. And while not everyone will agree with the conclusions he draws, no one who cares seriously about creators or culture can ignore the framework that he has set. There are choices that we as a society must make. And as Rawls did in political theory, or Milton Friedman did in economics, Fisher provides an understanding that will color policy analysis for the generations to come."

—Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law School

"The strength of this book is Fisher's willingness to step above the political fray to solve problems. He has produced one of the most important books in media studies and law in some years. It is refreshing, bold, and provocative. We need it badly."

—Siva Vaidhyanathan, Director of Communication Studies, Department of Culture and Communication, New York University

"This book provides the first comprehensive, accessible overview of the conflict surrounding music distribution and the emergence of digital communications networks, working towards a detailed proposal for how we could radically transform the way in which our society funds its music and film industries."

—Yochai Benkler, Yale Law School

"Fisher's proposal might be the best thing that ever happened to the cultural commons: the creators would be paid, while every individual would have unlimited access to every cultural creation."

The New York Times (January 25, 2004)

"Harvard University Professor Terry Fisher has completed the first comprehensive examination of various alternative [compensation] models....Our thanks to Professor Fisher for his exhaustive research in making our choices clear."

The Register (February 1, 2004)

"Promises to Keep is an intelligent call for reform in the entertainment industry's intellectual property business. . . . For those not fortunate enough to have taken Fisher's class on intellectual property at Harvard, this book is the next best thing. Perhaps

better. Reading it is like joining him on an imaginary drive south along California's coastal highway from Silicon Valley to Hollywood. The destination is provocative, and the journey itself is spectacular and edifying."

Legal Times

"...Fisher adds an important dimension to the history of plea bargaining precisely because he looks at it with a prosecutor's eye."

Michigan Law Review

"Those who care about the future of the entertainment industry will find that time spent reading the book will be well-rewarded and—because it is so well-written—pleasurable, even if readers don't agree with the book's conclusions."

Entertainment Law Reporter

"The most interesting aspect of the book is that it brings to the surface the very practical side of the copyright issue involving business considerations in the solutions it proposes."

Law and Politics Book Review

“Fisher offers a unique perspective on a growing problem of how to capture the benefits of digital distribution while avoiding the inevitable legal implications that such dissemination ultimately raises.”—Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts