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The Change Of Hands: Ownership In The 21st Century

2109 words - 8 pages

an given means is capable of both the most horrific crimes and greatest accomplishments. The means today is technology. But, what is technology? Technology is the application of knowledge. Technology extends beyond the cellphone and microchip. Everything from how we harvest crops to the strategies we use to wage war, are technologies. In recent years, knowledge and technology have experienced exponential growth. Such growth has been rapid and at times, careless. For example, the industrial revolution saw an explosion of technologies but at the expense of the working conditions, quality of life and the environment. Such development triggered the development ideologies and philosophies notably communism and capitalism: two opposing stances on ownership. These stances were not only concerned with property but also ownership of one’s ideas and self. Such as the class struggle portrayed by Marx: where individuals are in different classes because of their relation to the means of production. This departs from the medieval concept of the great chain of being: where the universe is organized hierarchically by God. Today, the rise of technology leads us to similar changes in our understanding of ownership. The evolution of property, privacy and crime showcase the positive movement away from traditional ownership. The most visible of these changes in attitude toward ownership is towards property.
Traditionally, property is something tangible or intangible that one has legal claim to. Thus property is both a physical book and the copyright to that book. Yet, the buyer of the physical book does not own both. That is unless, the buyer is the writer or else has legal claim. This is because copyright is the legal right to publish, sell and distribute a work. It allows writers and artists of all kinds to sell and profit from their work. Samuel Clemens (more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain) in a speech on December 6, 1906 before a committee on copyright was quoted as saying:
One author per year produces a book which can outlive the forty-two-year limit; that's all. This nation can't produce two authors a year that can do it; the thing is demonstrably impossible. All that the limited copyright can do is to take the bread out of the mouths of the children of that one author per year. (Clemens)
Clemens in this speech describes how extended copyright allows the family of the author to still benefit from the work while not giving publishers free material to profit from. Clemens perceived copyright as benefiting artists and stopping “pirates.” Yet, there is distinction: Clemens’s pirates were publishers not the public as is the case today. Publishers, today and in Clemen’s day, take works released into the public domain and make money without giving a dime to the progeny. Thus, in the early twentieth century copyright encouraged artistic expression by guaranteeing the artist and progeny protection from theft by publishers.
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