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But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
-- George Gordon Byron, Don Juan (Canto III, 88)

The first IntellectualProperty, the first legal protection against copying a text was the Statute of Anne, created in 1710 in Britain. Since then, copyright has undergone a fair degree of philosophical debate.

Copyright law is specifically different from DroitDAuteur?, which comes (obviously) from continental Europe. Copyright is only about controlling copying, and thus it only seeks to grant the most minimal number of rights to the author. DroitDAuteur? presumes that expression is like a child of the author, and thus is under complete control of the author. The public in that case is granted very few rights, and must be granted permission by the author.

Modern law is some amalgamation of the two legal systems, created by international treaties negotiated in private by unelected bureaucrats. Hence, we have a lot of wrangling on the ground where the mistakes play out that were made by combining the two systems in a way that favours GlobalMedia? over TheIndividual. Into this mix comes CopyLeft, which is like a LethalText trying to rewrite the law using the law itself. However, CopyLeft is less a legal instrument, and more a movement for social reform.

Critical components:

Various rights controlled through CopyrightLaw:

Various new rights proposed for DigitalNetwork media:

And also CopyLeft, its LethalText.


Tøttrup, M. (1998). Internet and copyright of pictures: an international overview. International Journal of Special Libraries, 32(1), 1-7. Available from http://www.fh-potsdam.de/~IFLA/INSPEL/98-1totm.pdf

Copyright for images (photographs) is different than for text; this article loosely overviews laws in Nordic countries, the UK, the US, Russia, China, Japan, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. (Not very good, but it's there.)

Doctorow, C. (2004). Microsoft Research DRM Talk. Available from http://craphound.com/msftdrm.txt, [Nicer HTML version] [CoryDoctorow?, DigitalRightsManagement?]

Probably the tightest written piece I've seen on why DRM is stupid. -- SunirShah

The Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA) database is an international electronic archive of intellectual property legislation. It provides easy access to multilateral treaties and to the intellectual property laws of a wide range of countries.

For an introduction to US Copyright Law, links to reference material, and the texts themselves, see the following link:

For the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property:

Copyright originated in the U.K. and originally covered only printed works. Over time the duration and breadth of coverage have expanded.

CategoryCopyright CategoryLaw


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