Four pillars: More on digital rights and wrongs


I was lucky enough to acquire a late 18th century edition (the William Jones translation) of Shakuntala by Kalidasa. [An aside: How nice to be able to get wikipedia references for a 5th century BC work of a Sanskrit poet. Keep going, Wikipedia].

And on the bottom of the title page I found the following:


Printed and sold by Joseph Cooper,

For the benefit of insolvent debtors.


Poor Kalidasa. No Mickey Mouse Acts to protect his copyright two millenia later, and then having to face the ignominy of having “his” royalties used to assist insolvent debtors.

Compare and contrast Sir Paul McCartney, who, according to today’s Times, said:

“The only annoying thing is, when I tour America, I have to pay to play some of my own songs. But I don’t think about that. Because if I did, it would be just too annoying.”

The context was Michael Jackson’s enforced transfer of his shares in ATV to Fortress, in order to stave off bankruptcy. Full story here. I guess I don’t understand what Sir Paul is complaining about. “My own songs”? They stopped being “my own songs” the day the titles were placed in ATV, according to the DRM nonsense of then and now.

At least I can quote from the title page of Kalidasa’s works without breaking into digital fortresses.

One of the more unusual consequences of the digital-wrongs world we live in is that we have spawned a whole new industry “guess who’s got the title?”. Many of you are likely to have read Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. [Go Wikipedia! Another aside. Is there a way we can all have wikipedia-associate relationships with Amazon? By this I mean that every time I link to a book at Amazon and someone else buys, the associate fee goes to Wikipedia? Could be a cool thing to do, right now I waste the opportunity]

The story I heard is as follows: Friedman saw a painting of the cover artwork he wanted. The publishers went ahead and acquired the rights. The book was duly published with the ship sailing off the edge of the world. Publishers were sued by actual owner of copyright, and found they’d paid the wrong guys. Book was retracted and cover changed. So if your World Is Flat cover looks like this, then you, like me, have the original.


Here’s the story as carried in Book Blog, I can’t get to the Editor and Publisher version.

Wherever you look, the current IPR and DRM models are cracking at the seams. Everyone wants to ensure artists and creators and novelists and musicians get paid. Nobody wants to steal anything. But that does not mean that current copyright, intellectual property and patent laws are the right ones for the 21st century. Sensible alternative compensation models can and will be found, even if those that exploit current models unfairly cry all the way from the bank.

Let me know what you think

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