UChicago Press awards Laing Prize to Adrian Johns for book 'Piracy'

The University of Chicago Press has awarded the 2012 Gordon J. Laing Prize to Adrian Johns, the Allan Grant Maclear Professor in History and chair of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, for his book, Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates.

The Press awards the Laing Prize annually to the UChicago faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction.


Piracy explores the intellectual property wars, from the advent of print culture in the 15th century to the reign of the Internet in the 21st century.

“Brimming with broader implications for today’s debates over open access, fair use, free culture and the like, Adrian Johns’ book ultimately argues that piracy has always stood at the center of our attempts to reconcile creativity and commerce—and that piracy has been an engine of social, technological and intellectual innovations as often as it has been their adversary,” the Press wrote in announcing the honor.

“From Cervantes to Sonny Bono, from Maria Callas to Microsoft, from Grub Street to Google, no chapter in the story of piracy evades Johns’ analysis in what will be the definitive history of the subject for years to come,” the Press added.

Published in January 2010, the book has received extensive praise in such publications as Nature, the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed.     

Johns is a specialist on intellectual property and recently received a Guggenheim fellowship, with which he will study the intellectual property defense industry.

He is the author of Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age (2010), and The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (1998), which the Press also published.

The Nature of the Book won the Leo Gershoy Award of the American Historical Association, the John Ben Snow Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies, the Louis Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, and the SHARP Prize for the best work on the history of authorship, reading and publishing.