A Brief History of Copyright
The World Public Library Blog Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 12
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Published Twice Weekly
by Michael S. Hart
Founder, Project Gutenberg,
Inventor of eBooks
A Brief History of Copyright (Part 2)
(Continuing our ongoing series on copyright) (to create a foundation for our future articles)
Part 1 Ended With This Preview:
As you can see, even from the brief history listed above, the whole idea of our modern copyright system comes from the fear of new technology by those who controlled the old technology, and who want to insure they also control the new technologies even if they didn't invent them and hardly understand them.
Fear is very strange motivator and other in unavoidable kinds of situations, such as war and similar events, results often, all too often, in either hiding from the new, hiding the new, so you don't have to deal with it, either way.
However, this is usually pretty counterproductive and has the added disadvantage that someone else who is NOT afraid of new ideas, concepts, tools, technologies, etc., might come along, and totally outcompete you with the new technology you should have been using all along, but fear kept you in the cave.
During World War Two we bombed all the steel mills in Germany and Japan as a matter of course.
During The Marshall Plan we helped them build new ones.
These new ones, of course, much more modern than the old ones such as we kept using because we were unwilling to do similar rebuilding of our own steel mills, which had not been bombed, and were, according to themselves, doing just fine.
The result was, again of course, that the Japanese and German steel they turned out was both better than our own, a cheaper product to make and sell, and thus the cost benefit ratio was improved on their behalf via both terms, cost AND benefit.
The result, yet again of course, was that the world bought an awful lot of this Japanese and German steel and less and less of United States steel, who still stubbornly refused to do an update in their mills and thus pretty much put themselves out of business in a manner anyone could have seen coming.
In the end, we accused the Japanese steelmakers of "dumping,"
because we pretended it was impossible to make a better steel at lower prices, even though it was we who taught them, and a years long pretense tried to keep our own steel mills afloat, even though it was totally obvious there was no chance.
Believe me, if cellphone service, Internet service, etc., was able to be shipped around like steel we would be in a similar situation in those markets, as both The Pacific Rim & Europe, and a few others, have leapfrogged over The United States for years in this area. If you don't believe me, take a look for an old movie called "The Saint," and think about that kind of cellphone he used along with the date the movie was made, and then think about the silly stupid phones the US had then!!!
Today you can buy a four band cellphone in Europe that is the thing to use when travelling the world, as it works in nearly every country and every kind of system.
No, you can't get one in The United States.
They want to milk every advance for as long as possible, then only when they must, move on to the next, stay there as long, or longer than they really can, and then again, and again.
This is what I call "Capitalism Gone Wrong," and it is a root of the copyright laws mentioned above.
Every time a new technology comes along that could make books available to the masses literally en masse, the publishers of the previous era who can't compete with it fairly, pass a law that makes it illegal to publish with the new technology.
Not totally illegal, just enough is made illegal to throw off the balance sheets of the new publishers and bankrupt them.
Then the old boy network publishers swoop in and buy up used, but still really brand new, technology and bankruptcy prices, with no real benefit to neither the ruined new publishers nor to the makers of the new technology who don't get to sell the product to them.
Once the old publishers learned they could do this to stop an entirely new technology, rather than compete with it, then it killed that kind of competition forever and each time someone spent a lifetime creating such a new technology, the results, sadly to say, have always been the same:
Pass a new copyright law even more restrictive than old ones!
Stop people from using the new technologies to reprint what a person could legally reprint under the current law.
You see, it has always been legal to copy. . .when you can't!
As soon as YOU can copy. . .then it becomes illegal.
Most of you probably don't remember when you could buy gizmos for your hi-fi/stereo that showed you how, right in a manual, how to put their brand of record on their brand of turntable, run through their brand of electronics, and then record it on their brand of tape on their brand of tape recorder.
AND THEY ENCOURAGED IT!!!
That is until the copies got too good. . . .
Now, all of a sudden what they used to encourage was illegal, even though the laws hadn't really changed.
The technical term for this kind of behavior is "reactionary"
because it is not an original act, but merely a reaction to a cause from outside. One person creates a new invention while the other reacts to it in a way to prevent changing things.