Saturday 18 June 2022

Copyright - the early years

As part of out travels we visited Donegal Castle, in Donegal town, in County Donegal (photos taken there and at the abbey). We had a very interesting tour where we learned how little we knew of Irish history! The part which most captured my imagination concerned one of the earliest copyright cases. In around 561 a man called Colm Cille borrowed a bookfrom St Finnian. He may not have been a saint at the time, and Colm certainly wasn't as he copied the book without permission – books were a really big deal back then. When Finnian found out, he was rightly furious and demanded Colm hand over the copy (later known as the cathach). He refused and eventually the King of Ireland ruled on the matter.

The King said 'to every cow her calf, to every book its copy' and said that Colm should give up his plagiarised version. Colm didn't accept this and he and his clan went to war on the matter. Many lives were lost. Later Colm felt great remorse that his copying the book had resulted in such tragedy. He did many good works and himself eventually became a saint. 

Thankfully these days we don't tend to have physical battles over copyright rules, but it's still an important and emotive subject. That's why I (repeatedly) urge writers to read and understand contracts and competition rules before signing or submitting work and only proceed if they're willing to agree to the stated terms. I don't advise that anyone give up all rights on their writing – but the decision is yours.


Geraldine Ryan said...

Fascinating story Patsy!

Marguerite said...

I did a MOOC a while ago on line and we had to peer assess a piece of prose. I had one to do which was identical - as in, copied and pasted from something on t'internet - verbatim - and yes, I did point out he'd been rumbled!
You seem to be having a 'working' holiday, Patsy!

ados123 said...

Oh, goodness! Copy write wars. Fascinating story. Thanks for sharing, Patsy.

Lindsay said...

How interesting. Pity Australian writer John Hughes didn't read this a while back! Hopefully no lives will be lost in the ensuing battle but Twitter followers will fall by the wayside.

Sheelagh said...

Ah the wisdom of St. Finian.I once had a whole article I submitted plagirised. It appeared with barely a word changed under someone else's name. It was quite sickening & sadly there was no St. Finian to appeal to. I did learn afterwards that the editor I submitted to was in the throes of some serious health issues & made some errors so I forgave him. It was a shock at the time & I gave them a wide berth after