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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

The Quest to Make Information Free Forever: Copyright Battles From Venetian Printers in the Renaissance to 21st Century Hackers

00:00 57:50
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The © symbol (or "Copyright") is a completely forgettable character ignored by all but lawyers. It is buried at the bottom of legal notices that your brain reflexively skips over. But this little symbol represents a war that has raged for centuries between authorities that want to restrict dangerous information, publishers that want to profit by it, artists that want to stop plagiarists, and open-information activists that want to make everything public domain.

In this episode I look at the history of copyright, the battle over how much information should cost. What is the line between protecting the rights of publishers and artists so they can make a living, and depriving society of crucial information and sentencing them to ignorance and illiteracy?

The battle includesVenetian Printer Aldus Manutius, who invented Italic font in 1500s Venice. He complained of French plagiarists, who copied his techniques in order to trick book buyers, even though “[t]he lettering, upon closer inspection, betrays a certain Frenchiness” and were “produced on foul paper, ‘with [a] strange odor.”Miguel Cervantes, who battled unauthorized sequels to Don Quixote by inserting those characters into his actual sequel and mocking them.England's Statue of Anne, the first copyright law that inadvertently led to a cartel of London book publishers who artificially limited production and drove book prices through the roof.America's lax prosecution of illegal printers of British literature, leading to a boom in education.Aaron Swart'z 2010 hack of MIT's network in order to illegally download five million academic articles and “liberate” them to the Internet
July 05, 2018
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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