Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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The Origin of the Copyright

  • The method of publication in ancient Greek was that of public recitation, usually by the author himself. If later others decided to recite his work, that would be a matter of pride for the author. The more often recited (i.e. reproduced), the more flattering.
  • Before the printing press, artists and writers would be honored that someone was copying their work and spreading it,
  • It was costly to "copy" and to "distribute".
  • Before, and still long after the invention of the printing press, artists and writers had jobs, sometimes related to their "art" but often not: Dante was a politician, Chretien served at the court of a countess, Rabelais was a physician, Camoes was a colonial soldier all over the world, Shakespeare was an actor, Cervantes was a soldier and an army purveyor.
  • The printing press turned the book into an object. Like all objects, it had a creator, an owner and a price.
  • Printing and distributing a book, however, was not cheap. "Authors" need capital in order to publish a book. It is natural to imagine that the capital has to come from sales of the book itself.
  • The printing press turned art into a profession.
  • The idea took hold that, by focusing only on your art, not being distracted by a regular job, you would attain a higher degree of creativity.
  • But then, left without a job, artists and writers needed a new way to make money out of their creative process.
  • It became important for the artist to be able to make money out of her art. The most natural way was to "charge" for any use (including duplication and distribution) of her work.
  • The mass production of texts due to the printing press invented copyrights.
  • The advent of the professional writer distanced the writer from her world and from her audience.