07 November 2010

Steal Horatio’s Book – If he ever Publishes One

Gutmenschtum cause requires flexibility. Flexibility, that is, with the reality of any situation over which you decide to become as theatrically outraged as those who tell you that you should (if you want to remain a good little Gutmensch.)

Sign and Sight, the product of near-monopoly mega-publisher Bertelsmann (AKA the Death Star of European gutmenschliche non-diversity of thought and opinion), takes up the matter in their unsalable digital form over a tempest in a teapot governing Argentine copyright law. Apparently it’s draconian because at it’s heart, it doesn’t exempt professional academic philosophers from stealing others’ copywritten work.

The article 17º states that "Every author or inventor is the exclusive owner of his work, invention or discovery, for the term granted by law".
Juan Bautista Alberdi intended for the copyright term to be indefinite, but during the writing of the Constitution it was decided to give a time limit, as done in Chile and the United States.
Pretty damn typical, and a good friend of authors who want to defend themselves from theft of their work by those evil corporate publishers, not to mention comforting the publishers enough to believe that if they print something, some ass isn’t going to turn around and give it away. It’s hard to see any publisher committing to print ANYTHING without that protection.

Alas, enter the outraged:
in 2009, something happened that no one in their right mind would have believed possible: the Argentinian Book Chamber filed charges against a university professor who was running a number of websites on philosophy. Among other things, these featured unpublished or unavailable texts by Derrida, Heidegger and Nietzsche.
Because laws are for vanity, I guess – not to be enforced!
[in 1913] Clemenceau learned that one of his theater plays was being played without authorization. After a dispute about the topic, the first copyright law was enacted in 1913.
The interview’s hero, Horatio Patel further bumbles:
In my naivete I had assumed that the existence of such a wonderful medium for sharing texts would mean that within a decade, the majority if not the entirety of philosophical writ could be available online. Which would mean that everyone would have a complete library in their homes, making it unnecessary to travel or wait, and that the 'books' could be leant to thousands simultaneously, and would be easy to locate. And finally I thought of philosophy magazines which are published once a year at most, and then only in editions of 50, which is barely enough to supply the specialist libraries. This would all change, I thought. Everything that had ever been or would ever be produced, could be published online. This was utterly fantastic, I thought.
Which in the case of copywritten work, can easily made spontaneous with online sales and e-book readers. However, that’s not good enough. The author or rights-holder must never be compensated for their work, even if they want to.

The source of his horror?
Horacio Potel's name was picked up by the European, Asian and US media. The case of the Argentinian professor who was taken to court for putting philosophical texts online, with no intent to make a profit, made it painfully clear that if everyone breaks the law, anyone could be prosecuted.
Picked up, because the idea of defending the hero of all great truths from intellectual repression couldn’t matter more based on the logic that the man wasn’t making a profit. He was giving away other people’s work without their permission, but that’s okay, because there wasn’t any profit involved in his giving something away.

Tell you what... I feel generous. I’m going to give you Potel’s shoes. How does that sound. There’s no profit involved, so we can all feel good and warm inside! Property is theft, Pal!

Doesn’t Horacio Potel realize that if the rights-holders of Derrida, Heidegger’s and Nietzsche’s work wanted their otherwise unavailable writings released for free, they would do it? Even Abbie Hoffman didn’t surrender his rights to “Steal this Book”. Even he understood that it wasn’t yours’ to give away.


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