Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The early years of intellectual property

For composers, too, copyright protection is very much a creation of modern times. Until deep into the 19th century, piracy of the most flagrant kind was the norm. As soon as a score was published, it was liable to be copied right across Europe without any kind of payment to its creator. Moreover, unscrupulous publishers often borrowed the identity of prestigious composers to add allure to slow-selling catalogue items. In Paris, in 1789, the Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz went to a concert to hear a symphony advertised as being by Haydn - and found himself having to sit through one of his own com positions. Two years earlier, one of the more respectable publishing houses, Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig, advertised for sale 96 symphonies by Haydn, even though at that time he had written fewer than 80. If modern copyright protection had been in place in Germany in the middle of the 19th century, Richard Wagner would have been a rich man. As his biographer Ernest Newman pointed out, it was the system that made him a beggar - and then condemned him for being a debtor.
From the New Statesman

1 comment:

Peter in Dundee said...

Yes, those who condemn IP & patent protection as anti intellectual freedom etc don't understand that without such protection innovation does not pay, so it fizzles out.

There is much to change in the modern systems but getting rid of them altogether would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.