St. Columba: The patron saint of copyleft...

R. A. Hettinga rah@shipwright.com
Thu, 21 Mar 2002 07:28:20 -0500


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Status:  U
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 17:44:22 -0800
From: Somebody
To: "R. A. Hettinga" <rah@SHIPWRIGHT.COM>
Subject: Re: St. Columba: The patron saint of copyleft...
User-Agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

You may want to be careful with that word "copyleft." It does not, as your
mail implies, stand as an opposite to "copyright." Quite the opposite, in
fact: copyleft is the exercise of copyright for a political purpose, to
force software freedom (as in liberty) upon consumers as a condition of
use, which of course would be quite impossible without the power of
copyright to wield over them.

The facile opposite of copyright is, I suppose, public domain. But then
copyright was supposedly invented to entice creation into the open that would
otherwise have remained secret (or un-made), so depending on whose
politics you subscribe to, the functional opposite of copyright may well
be "trade secret". Would the monk have lent his manuscript, had he known
of the intent to copy without compensation?

<Somebody's .sig>

P.S.: Great story.

On Mon, Mar 18, 2002 at 08:17:20AM -0500, R. A. Hettinga wrote:
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>
>
> Status:  U
> From: "Kermit Snelson" <ksnelson@subjectivity.com>
> To: <nettime-l@bbs.thing.net>
> Subject: <nettime> the patron saint of copyleft?
> Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2002 17:49:14 -0800
> Sender: nettime-l-request@bbs.thing.net
> Reply-To: "Kermit Snelson" <ksnelson@subjectivity.com>
>
> In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, here's a reminder that one of Ireland's
> other patron saints, Saint Columba, may have pioneered the anti-copyright
> movement way back in the sixth century (A.D. 555, to be exact):
>
>      St. Columba had borrowed from the monk a fine manuscript of the
> Gospels, and Columba had made a copy of the borrowed book, before returning
> it.  The monk claimed the copy also as his; the saint disputed this.  His
> argument in defence reads not unlike the defence made by modern infringers
> of copyright:  "I confess that the book in question was copied from the
> manuscript of Finnen.  But it was with my own industry and toil and burning
> of the midnight oil.  And it was copied with such care that Finnen's
> manuscript is in no way injured by the act of copying.  Moreover, my object
> was to preserve more surely the best parts of the book and employ them for
> the greater glory of God.  Hence I do not admit that I have done any injury
> to Finnen; nor am liable for restitution, nor am at fault in any way."  But
> Dermot, the judge, as manuscripts were then new in Ireland, had no exact
> precedent, and he cast about for the nearest analogy.  He found the Brehon
> maxim, "With every cow goes its calf", "Le cach boin a boinin"; and so his
> judgment was in favor of the monk, because "Le cach lebar a lebran", "With
> every book goes the young of the book". (But the saint, it is recorded, was
> very angry at this judgment, invoked the power of a rival chieftain against
> Dermot, and thrashed him well in battle.)  [Wigmore, John H., _A Panorama of
> the World's Legal Systems_, Washington DC, 1936, p. 677]
>
> Kermit Snelson
>
> #  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> #  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> #  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> #  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
> #  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net
>
> --- end forwarded text
>
>
> --
> -----------------
> R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
> The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
> 44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
> "... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
> [predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
> experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'
>
>
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---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Perry The Cynic                                             perry@cynic.org
To a blind optimist, an optimistic realist must seem like an Accursed Cynic.
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-- 
-----------------
R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah@ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'