The question of what acts of authorship or creative works are covered by copyright is a similar story of gradual encroachment on the public domain as more and more types of "works" are brought under this handy, and lucrative, financial umbrella. In 1911 sound recordings were included. In 1956 films and broadcasts were included. In 1990 software was included. Were you, for example aware that architecture is covered by copyright? And, of course, the foundation, in 1967 of the World Intellectual Property Organisation makes it possible that our very ideas could conceivably be covered by such restrictions - after all they wasted little time deciding that software was patentable. If a sufficiently powerful lobby group wants something covered by copyright then one would do well to assume that, in the absence of an organised opposition, it will be covered irrespective of whether this is injurious to the public good. Seed stocks are already a case in point here, and our own DNA may be next.
Finally in this sorry tale of the ever growing monster that is copyright we must note with alarm that in 1988 the "authors" of "creative works" covered under the umbrella of copyright were granted "moral rights" to go alongside their "financial rights" and the scope that this grants such "authors" has yet to be fully investigated.
There is one other axis of extension that I haven't mentioned and that perhaps I should and that is the ever widening definition of "author" under the legislation which now encompasses performers of other "authors'" works and recordists of performances of other "authors'" works.
The net, we can see, spreads wider and wider - the inversion of natural law becomes more and more encompassing - the public domain is deprived of more and more of human ingenuity and finally the contracts under which these "creative works" are "sold" becomes more and more opaque and less and less fair to the buyer. Is it really any wonder then that a "will to pirate" has emerged and that vast numbers of otherwise law-abiding people throughout the world regularly ignore or flout such unfathomable and unjust laws?
We must draw what comfort we can from contrarian developments: in 1984 - Richard Stallman, working at MIT, founded the Free Software Foundation, the first anti-copyright organisation of the digital era; in 1994 - John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation declared, in a widely read manifesto, that intellectual property law "cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain digitized expression".
My intra-uterine companion, my didymus, my sibling and friend and literally bosom buddy Shem shamelessly monopolized this blog recently holding forth on the subject of copyright or, as my good friend Finn likes to call it, copyleft.
Whilst Shem is a very bright boy he is not, unfortunately, a completer finisher when it comes to matters of the intellect and so while his analysis and historical research was sound, and while he correctly identified the major problems that copyright and its nefarious offspring present he did not proffer any means by which in a modern society we could right these wrongs and rectify the situation.