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!