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Thread: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

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    Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    I just watched Nick Mailer's DebConf7 talk titled " Free as in Market: the misunderstood entanglement of ethics, software and profits" (video link), most of which he reserved to quoting a House of Lords speech given in 1774 by Lord Camden. His purpose in doing so was to assert that the notion of intellectual property hasn't gone unchallenged in history, and as far back as 1774, people were actively opposing it; that it shouldn't be taken for granted as something that has roots in common law and sense, which is newly being attacked by a group of iconoclasts.

    Besides recommending watching the talk, which is good food for thought, I'd like to share a few paragraphs of what Camden said that is still important for the issue at hand today. As Mailer cites (and I haven't really researched yet), this was on a case between two booksellers whose interests bumped into one another, which ended up getting debated in the parliament, and partially formed the basis of the notion of copyright back then. You can ignore Camden's metaphysics if you so prefer; the essence of what he's getting to will remain.

    The following is from http://www.law.duke.edu/shell/cite.p...terSpring+2003) .
    If there be any thing in the world common to all mankind, science and learning are in their nature publici juris, and they ought to be as free and general as air or water. They forget their Creator, as well as their fellow creatures, who wish to monopolize his noblest gifts and greatest benefits. Why did we enter into society at all, but to enlighten one another's minds, and improve our faculties, for the common welfare of the species? Those great men, those favoured mortals, those sublime spirits, who share that ray of divinity which we call genius, are intrusted by Providence with the delegated power of imparting to their fellow-creatures that instruction which heaven meant for universal benefit; they must not be niggards to the world, or hoard up for themselves the common stock.
    Glory is the reward of science, and those who deserve it, scorn all meaner views: I speak not of scribblers for bread, who teaze the press with their wretched productions; fourteen years is too long a privilege for their perishable trash. It was not for gain, that Bacon, Newton, Milton, Locke, instructed and delighted the world; it would be unworthy such men to traffic with a dirty bookseller for so much a sheet of a letter press. When the bookseller offered Milton five pound for his Paradise Lost, he did not reject it, and commit his poem to the flames, nor did he accept the miserable pittance as the reward of his labour; he knew that the real price of his work was immortality, and that posterity would pay it.
    If copyright were confirmed as perpetual, Camden said:

    All our learning will be locked up in the hands of the Tonsons and the Lintons of the age, who will set what price upon it their avarice chuses to demand, till the public become as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are . . . . [E]very valuable author will be as much monopolized by them as Shakespeare is at present . . .
    Previously known as 23meg

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    The man was ahead of his times.

    The "till the public become as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are..."-part made me do a double take.

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    Yes. And keep in mind during his time copyright lasted only fourteen years, and only effected publishers. The act of copying was an industrial act, requiring expensive print press machines. Violation of copyright never applied to individuals in this manner. Also copyright could only be owned by the person who authored the work, and only individuals could have copyright. Copyright was designed to reward authors for producing works at the expense of publishers. Now copyright is used by *publishers* at the expense of authors and the people. Now copyright lasts 95 years, is often owned by corporations, and for the first time is used against people. The copyright of 1774 may have been bad, but today it's far far worse and completely reverses the original purpose of it's creation.

    We need to trash it.

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    Sorry, guys, but I feel that copyright is a good thing, in many instances. You all seem to be forgetting that copyright is only a *part* of intellectual property rights - IPR incorporates everything from patents, to trademarks, to copyright, to design rights, to domain rights. Think about it for a minute - if you were an author and wrote a novel that was published by a small-press publishing outfit (keeping in mind that the author almost *always* retains copyright (read the fly-page of a book!)) and then a year or so later, someone reads it, likes it, and decides to publish it under their *own* name with a major publishing house, then gets all the credit for such a wonderful novel, gets the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize for Literature, etc... You can't tell me you wouldn't be Pee'd off? You'd be screaming "I wrote that!!!" That's what copyright is there for. It's protection against infringement. It's all about saying who wrote what and crediting them for it.

    Now, as for software copyright, whilst I'm an advocate of the FOSS "movement" (if you'd like to call it that), even that doesn't affect copyright. In the FOSS world, if you take someone else's application and modify it, then set it out into the world for anyone else to use, you will still credit the original programmer.

    I think you're confusing copyright with closed-source. And whilst there're some similarities between the two, they are distinctly different. Closed Source is jumping on the copyright bandwagon and saying no one else can use your stuff because you wrote it (be it a novel, a screenplay, or a computer program). Using someone else's copyrighted work is fine as long as permission is granted in advance. Closed source says "under no circumstances can you use this material; so much so that I'm going to hid from you the workings of how this was created in the first place".

    Forgive me if I'm not making any sense, I've been drinking! I'll review this post tomorrow and amend it if it needs to be! LOL.

    PS - I work for an IPR attorney, so I kind of know what I'm talking about (or, at least I do when I'm sober!)

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    Quote Originally Posted by petersjm View Post
    Sorry, guys, but I feel that copyright is a good thing, in many instances. You all seem to be forgetting that copyright is only a *part* of intellectual property rights - IPR incorporates everything from patents, to trademarks, to copyright, to design rights, to domain rights. Think about it for a minute - if you were an author and wrote a novel that was published by a small-press publishing outfit (keeping in mind that the author almost *always* retains copyright (read the fly-page of a book!)) and then a year or so later, someone reads it, likes it, and decides to publish it under their *own* name with a major publishing house, then gets all the credit for such a wonderful novel, gets the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize for Literature, etc... You can't tell me you wouldn't be Pee'd off? You'd be screaming "I wrote that!!!" That's what copyright is there for. It's protection against infringement. It's all about saying who wrote what and crediting them for it.

    Now, as for software copyright, whilst I'm an advocate of the FOSS "movement" (if you'd like to call it that), even that doesn't affect copyright. In the FOSS world, if you take someone else's application and modify it, then set it out into the world for anyone else to use, you will still credit the original programmer.

    I think you're confusing copyright with closed-source. And whilst there're some similarities between the two, they are distinctly different. Closed Source is jumping on the copyright bandwagon and saying no one else can use your stuff because you wrote it (be it a novel, a screenplay, or a computer program). Using someone else's copyrighted work is fine as long as permission is granted in advance. Closed source says "under no circumstances can you use this material; so much so that I'm going to hid from you the workings of how this was created in the first place".

    Forgive me if I'm not making any sense, I've been drinking! I'll review this post tomorrow and amend it if it needs to be! LOL.

    PS - I work for an IPR attorney, so I kind of know what I'm talking about (or, at least I do when I'm sober!)
    Please read this speech by Richard Stallman. He proposes amending and updating copyright laws, to once again make them tools to aid society, and not, as they have now become, tools to restrict the public's freedom while maximising the profits of businesses.

    No one is calling for abolition of copyright. But many are questioning whether the way in which copyright laws are being used today is impeding human development and brotherhood.
    Recommended Resources: Ubuntu Linux Resources

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    No one is calling for abolition of copyright.
    except me

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    For more discussion on this topic see this video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgCKRN_Bzzs

    And read this essay

    http://emoglen.law.columbia.edu/publications/dcm.html

    Thanks for the post 23meg!

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    Why should the poet ,writer,composer live in abject poverty whilst we profit with pleasure from their labour.
    This account is not active.

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    Who says that they should?

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    Re: Lord Camden on Intellectual Property (circa 1774)

    What makes you assume that they will?
    The speaker in the video linked to by the OP answered your question, KiwiNZ.

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