I want to take a moment to be thankful for peanuts. They are my breakfast sometimes. They are the perfect way to stave off sugar lows and hunger pains. They are vitamin rich and high in protein and have been shown to help protect against heart disease, alleviate the effects of diabetes, reduce inflammation and protect against colon cancer. And they are in our lives today because of the work of just one man: George Washington Carver. He changed agriculture in the south by encouraging the cultivation of alternate crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of cotton.
Before copyright law there were poets and playwrights who bemoaned the theft of their work and words by others while at the same time they stole words to build their poems and plays. Plagiarism was rampant, though, the act of literary theft was only just termed plagiarism, by one poet’s re-purposing of a Latin term for man-stealing or kidnapping. After copyright law was established, there were authors postulating its merits and its deficiencies, in writing, to the public and their peers. Authors were thinking about copyright.
When I discovered that one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, had stood before congress to give his professional opinion on a copyright term extension I was more than excited. But, I found myself arguing with Twain. I could see some of his point, but I did not agree with all of it. I wondered, where were the author voices on copyright today. I’m still searching, but what I’m finding is that most of the well known, professionally published and successful authors are letting publishers and author’s guilds speak for them. Do they really agree with everything that’s being said?
Now that copyright is immediate without registration, the world is teaming with authors. Some write for fun, and to entertain their friends. Some make a living off of it, or perhaps off of other creative endeavors offered up to the public via the web. And just like those poet thieves from before copyright law, all authors are users of copyrighted content as well. With this huge population of authors, there is still little thinking and postulating and writing about copyright. I’m not saying copyright theory is crazy sexy or anything…well, no, you know what? It is. It is obsession worthy. It is discussion worthy. I mean, think about it, copyright law is government regulation over what we birth and grow in our minds and give to the world. If Athena emerged from Zeus’ head today she would be protected by copyright law! If art is a conversation, copyright law is keeping checks on what we say!
Anyway, my obsession with finding author voices has resulted in these things, so far. Twain and Tolstoy were contemporaries; and if you think all authors would argue for longer and stronger copyright law, Tolstoy would prove you wrong. He was against copyright. He looked on his writing as a service to the public that both provided him the experiences he used to write and the living that let him write. The burden of his education and leisure was to reach out to people, teach them, and attempt to enrich their lives with the fruit of his literary genius.
I did a comic…before I was posting them through the fancy comic posting plug in for WordPress, and it was calledUnlikely Bedfellows.This is Ono, from Unlikely Bedfellows. If she’s good, she’ll get another chapter.
This post is long overdue. First it took me forever to get frames for these gorgeous little pieces of artwork, then it look me forever to figure out how to hang them on our walls. Now, it has taken me forever to share. These prints came from the Etsy store of CoeyAndShy. In addition to gorgeous art prints, the CoeyAndShy store has gorgeous art on totes and scarves.
When you are next shopping around on Etsy, check them out!
While I’m not sure I can say that I think copyright should expire before the death of the author, and I adore Mark Twain even if he did declare his belief in perpetual copyright…this video makes some fabulous points.