Friday 10 June 2011

To bury or to praise?

Mark Antony --
copyright or bust?
"Do we come to bury copyright, or to praise it?"  The title of the forthcoming debate on 12 July (click here for full details) has been widely recognised by readers as a nod to Mark Antony's speech in Shakespeare's celebrated drama Julius Caesar.  You can access the original by clicking here and scrolling down to "Friends, Romans, countrymen ..."

One erudite reader has drawn our attention to what he calls "the original, slightly adapted by Gaius Indiges".  Its relevance to copyright makes it fit to cite here, in the context of the debate.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
I come to bury Copyright, not to praise it.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Copyright. The noble critic
Hath told you Copyright was out of date:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Copyright answer'd it.
Here, under leave of the critic and the rest—
For the critic is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men—
Come I to speak in Copyright’s funeral.
It was the creator’s friend, faithful providing just reward
But the critic says it was out of date;
And the critic is an honourable man.
Copyright hath brought many ideas home to the digital services
Whose exploits did their general coffers fill;
Did this in Copyright seem out of date?
When that the creator have cried, Copyright hath helped:
Copyright should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet the critic says it was out of date;
And the critic is an honourable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal
In thrice times hundred years the world presented many a change
Which it did thrice times hundred managed. Was this out of date?
Yet the critic says it was out of date;
And, sure, the critic is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what the critic spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love copyright once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for copyright?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with copyright,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

But yesterday the word of copyright might
Have stood against the world; now lies it there,
And none so poor to do it reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do the critic wrong, and the academic wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.
But here's a parchment with the seal of copyright;
I found it in its closet, 'tis its will:
Let but the commons hear this testament—
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—
And they would go and kiss dead copyright's wounds
And dip their napkins in its sacred blood,
Yea, beg a hair of it for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their issue".
The Big Debate now has 107 registrants, representing all sides of the copyright . There's room for more, registration is free and refreshments are provided -- so do let us know if you're coming by emailing Jeremy here with the subject line Copyright Debate".

1 comment:

Bobby Glushko said...

Romans, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Copyright's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Copyright was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Copyright, this is my answer:–

Not that I loved Copyright less, but that I loved the progress of science and the useful arts more. Had you rather Copyright were perpetual and be required to license all, than that Copyright were limited, to live all free scholars?

As Copyright protected my writings, I weep for it; for its fair use provisions, I rejoice at it; as it was the law, I honour it: but, as it was expanded and misused by big content, I slew it. There are tears for its protection; joy for its limits; honour for its legality; and death for its overreach.

Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not wish a vibrant public domain? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so
vile that will not love the progress of science and the useful arts? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.