During the first half of the 1800′s a new technology was threatening the livelihoods of book authors.
The printing press.
To deal with the challenges at hand, Sir Thomas Talfourd drafted a new bill under which the copyright term for books would be extended to sixty years after the author’s death…. (arguing against, Macauley predicted that to do so would increase piracy): “Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot… On which side indeed should the public sympathy be when the question is whether some book as popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the Pilgrim’s Progress, shall be in every cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich for the advantage of the great-grandson of a bookseller who, a hundred years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author when in great distress?… The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create…”
Fast forward 170 years and politicians are still debating over the same topics.
In 1841, Macaulay’s speech made quite an impression in the House of Commons. The Copyright bill was rejected by 45 votes to 38, and a year later it finally passed as the Copyright Act 1842, without the sixty year extension he argued against.
In reality, the high courts and low courts have been reintroduced in silence. When Sony BMG broke into millions of computers worldwide in 2005, rootkitting them to disable their ability to run instructions that would violate Sony’s own interpretation of its copyright monopoly, Sony was sentenced to send out marketing material for its own products and no individual executives were charged. When LulzSec members were arrested for breaking into systems in the singular, they get the low court treatment. When a commoner is accused of violating the copyright monopoly, in some draconian countries like France, they can be sent into social exile without even getting a trial in the low court. In contrast, the noble Voddler (a video-on-demand service) violated the GPL egregiously by using free software to build its service — but without resharing the code, thus violating the copyright monopoly that GPL builds on, and for thoroughly commercial purposes. They were never prosecuted. In contrast, they are now speaking at hearings in parliaments on how successful they are. As a politician, I have learned that the rights of the commoners are never enforced against the noble, but that the monopolies of the noble are always enforced against commoners. This is not being equal before the law. When did this division of people happen? How did some become more equal than others?