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March 2018



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I like the word 'novelty'. I like words in general and when I was researching the word 'novel' as in 'an extend work of prose fiction' I was pleasantly surprise to discover that it derives from 'novella' the Italian word for 'new little thing'. So novels are called 'novels' because they are novel -literally new stories.

Then I was thinking about music, and filk songs, and 'parody' songs (which are often called 'novelty' songs).

All new music is novel just as all new stories are novel. We value novelty a lot in our culture. Particularly with our copyright laws. If it isn't novel you have to pay someone else in order to use it.

I'm against the indefinite copyright protection our laws are currently granting. The U.S. Constitution states in Article I, Section 8 " The Congress shall have Power ...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" Limited copy right protection promotes art by motivating artists to create original works. Back before recorded music a tune that everyone knew and could sing was valuable. Don't' get me wrong novelty was also valuable. Egill Skallagrímsson, an Icelandic warrior-poet who lived in the 10th century, saved his own life when he was in the power of King Eiríkr Haraldsson in York by composing an original poem overnight.

But indefinite copy protection discourages the creation of derivative works. "The Star-Spangled Banner", the national anthem of the United States, is sung to the tune of a popular English drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven.". Béla Bartók, Johannes Brahms, Antonín Dvorák, Franz Joseph Haydn, and Ralph Vaughan Williams
are some of the European classical composers known to use folk music in their compositions.

The history of music is the history of building on the work of others (as well as novelty) 90% of new music is crap. To quote Theodore Sturgeon "90% of everything is crap". Old things are generally valued because they are the 10% that was worth keeping from the all the crap that was made back then.

Novelty is valuable. We will always need new creative work. And copyright protection is good when it serves to reward artists for creating new works. But new works serve us all best when they are eventually allowed to enter the public domain.


Egill Skallagrímsson?

You go by the moniker of "Lady Sheherazahde" and you had to go all the way to 10th century Iceland to find an example where quick literary output was essential for survival?

I take your point, but it isn't a very novel one, is it? Anyone taking a quick look at anything from a movie marquee to a legal brief will quickly realize how derivative our culture is, despite the clamoring for novelty. And copyrights do expire and works do become public domain, right?

Re: Egill Skallagrímsson?

My only excuse for not referencing Scheherazade is that she is fictional. :-) My dad was real big on Egill's Saga so I knew the story.

Some copyrights haven't expired since the 1920s

I was just weighing in on the ongoing debate. I'm for limiting copyrights, 50 years after the death of the author is too long. The Copyright Act of 1790 only granted 14 years, with the right to renew for one additional 14 year term should the copyright holder still be alive.

I agree with you

The copyright should not outlive the author. That does not benefit society nor the creative world. If the person's relatives want to exploit the guy or gal, they should do it while they're still alive.

- R

Re: Scheherazade

That will teach me to write in a hurry.

After I posted I got to thinking about why I didn't site Scheherazade and I realized that there is nothing in her story to indicate that she created original (not derivative) works.

I'm called Sheherazahde because I'm a good storyteller, but I know I'm not good at making up original stories. I'm good at retelling stories I have heard.

The story of Scheherazade is a story of skill, resourcefulness, and courage but not necessarily innovation.

Re: Scheherazade

Tell us a story, Auntie Sheherazahde!