2018-12-13 12:50:41
how times are changing In Focus/theory

I am reading Adrian Johns’ The Nature of the Book. For the first few hundred years the biggest problems pirates were causing was that they mutilated, transformed, abridged, etc. the texts, causing great concern for the authors. Exact copying was in this sense a rare achievement and a secondary problem. Now we seek to protect transformative uses of copyrighted materials by CC licenses and such, but condemn non-transformative copying. Ironic, but i can hardly believe, that the concerns of Martin Luther were (can be) dissipated by post-modernist intertextuality, or by technological development.

Grace and peace! What is all this, dear sirs, that one should openly rob and steal what belongs to the other, thus ruining one another? Have you now become street robbers and thieves? Or do you really imagine that God will bless and cause you to prosper through such knavery? I have gone on with the postils up till Easter, when they were secretly abstracted from the printing-press by the compositor, who maintains himself by the sweat of our brow, and who himself conveyed my writings to your most estimable town, where they were hurriedly printed and sold before the whole was finished, to the great detriment of all concerned. But I would even have put up with all this injury, had they not treated my books as they did — printing them so hurriedly and falsely — that when they reach my hands I scarcely know them to be mine. Some bits are left out, here they are displaced, there falsified, and other parts not corrected. And they have learned the art of writing Wittenberg on the top of some which have never seen Wittenberg. This is downright knavery. So let every one beware of the postils for the six Sabbaths, and let them sink into oblivion, for I do not acknowledge them as mine. Therefore take warning, my dear printers, who thus steal and rob. Other towns on the Rhine — Strassburg, etc., do not do this; and even if they did, it would not harm us so; for their publications do not reach us in the same way as yours do, being so much nearer. For you know what St. Paul says to the Thessalonians: “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because that the Lord is the avenger of all such.” One day you will experience this. Should not a Christian out of brotherly love wait for a month or two before he copies his work? We have put up with this till it has become unbearable, and has prevented us going on with the printing of the prophets, as we do not wish to see them spoiled, so greed and envy are delaying the spread of the Divine Word, and the fault lies at your door. Indulge your greed as much as you will, till we Germans are called brutes, but pray do not do so in the name of God. The judgment will most surely descend. May better times soon come. Amen.

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