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September 7th, 2011 11:38 pm - Some Minor Historical Notes on Copyright and Censorship
[community profile] otw_news recently posted a link to an article which discussed Arthurian legend as fanfic. It was neat to see that being acknowledged, though as we all know of course fanfic goes back much farther than the 13th century: it goes back to the Aeneid (an early Gary Stu), to the Argonautica (early crossover crack), to the Book of Job (the original example of Snacky's Law), to the Epic of Gilgamesh (which I tend to describe as the world's first recorded slash fic, since earlier Gilgamesh stories were somewhat less myopically focussed on the manly devotion of Gilgamesh and Enkidu.)

Really, it's a bit silly to talk about the history of fanfic, since it wasn't until just the last three hundred years or so that anything other than fanfic has been regularly acknowledged as proper literature.

So let's talk about media piracy instead.

The patron saint of media piracy, of course, is St. Columba of Iona, who borrowed a psalter from St. Finnian, sometime in the 6th century CE, made a copy, and refused to give St. Finnian the copy when he returned the original. St. Finnian demanded the copy back, St. Columba declared it was his, and they appealed to King Diarmait of Ireland, who declared "every cow its calf, every book its copy," in favor of St. Finnian. This being 6th century Ireland, it ended in Columba raising his clan in rebellion against the king, and around 3,000 men died in the Battle of CĂșl Dreimhne before Columba went into voluntary exile in Scotland to avoid excommunication.

He took his copy of the psalter with him when he went, though!

I've never really been able to work up much guilt about media piracy, because a) I've gotten well under 3,000 people killed as a result, and b) none of the arguments against it apply to me. That's been driven home with real numbers to me lately: LibraryThing recently added a column to its catalog listings where one can input where one acquired a book, and I've managed to fill it in back to Christmas 2009 (so far.)

Of about ~500 items added to my library in that time (yes, I know I have a problem, but I also still have a few inches of shelf space :P), here is where I got them: Spoilers: nowhere that let to profits for Borders or Amazon. )

I get most of my music the same way I get my books: passed on from friends, from the library, or found while thumbing through boxes and boxes of old LPs and slightly-less-old CDs at flea markets and thrift stores. I can't give you the numbers, because I buy a lot less music than books, so I don't bother to track them the same way, but I think the last music I bought new was a Tom Lehrer CD with a gift card I got for high school graduation. I have found some really amazing stuff in those boxes of old LPS, and, yeah, I do need to get back on track with digitizing some of it to share.

So a few months back I was in a new thrift store that recently opened in the area, and I found a record that was slightly different than any I'd seen before - bigger than a 45 or 78, smaller than an LP, and heavy. The label was printed with "Duodisc aluminum base", and under it, in handwritten ball-point pen, "3-22-47, Bing Crosby, Dennis Day, quartet"

I very quickly realized that what I had in my hands was popular music that had been stolen by immoral copyright pirates sixty-five years ago. No wonder the music publishing had completely died out by the 1950s, if people were making copies of stuff and passing them around for free! Just imagine what music today might have been like if there had still been a profitable recording industry when Elvis and the Beatles were performing.

Obviously I bought it. )

Current Mood:: [mood icon] bouncy
Current Music:: Bing Crosby and Dennis Day - Always

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