Thomas Babington Macaulay on Copyright
russell at flora.ca
Sat Apr 27 12:59:45 EDT 2002
This article comes from FLORA.ca
Macaulay on Copyright
Author, Poet, Historian and Politician Thomas Babington Macaulay on
The easiest form of parochialism to fall into is to assume that we
are smarter than the past generations, that our thinking is
necessarily more sophisticated. This may be true in science and
technology, but not necessarily so in wisdom.
Today I would like to share with you a speech made in 1841 by
Thomas Babbington Macaulay, a brilliant philosopher, critic and
historian who was himself a great enemy of historical parochialism.
The speech is on the topic of copyright
I believe this is a must-read for all creators. He clearly
acknowledges the necessity of Copyright:
It is then on men whose profession is literature, and whose private
means are not ample, that you must rely for a supply of valuable
books. Such men must be remunerated for their literary labour. And
there are only two ways in which they can be remunerated. One of
those ways is patronage; the other is copyright.
He then goes on to explain well both the questionable rewards and the
much more likely risks associated with overly-expanding copyright.
Thus, then, stands the case. It is good that authors should be
remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them
is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good
we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day
longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.
I believe that he was also foretelling the hostility held against some
creators (authors, musicians, etc) by Internet-connected citizens. It
also explains people like myself who are creators in our own right,
but who have decided to simply boycott the products of specific
publishers, regardless of the potential harm that may come to creators
who believe they rely on those publishers.
At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his
side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take
the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well
pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund
their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have
anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law:
and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present
race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable
monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in
the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal
pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot.
Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant: <http://www.flora.ca/>
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