Shakespeare Got To Get Paid, Son

You may have seen the NY Times article going around, but Slate’s got a quick summary if you prefer. A bunch of authors (James Shapiro among them – is he our James Shapiro?) get together and argue that only through the invention of the paybox, so that authors could profit from their works, did the world see the likes of Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc…. If they weren’t getting paid for their work, they would not have existed.
That may be a gross summary of a summary, but I don’t have time to get into it right now. The whole point of the article is pro-copyright, anti-Web (at least, the aspect of the web that says “blah blah blah everything should be free”).

6 thoughts on “Shakespeare Got To Get Paid, Son

  1. I personally think today's copyright laws are a little too strong. I am NOT arguing for everything to be free, and certainly I believe that authors etc. have the right to be remunerated for their efforts. But right now, creators' estates get to hold on to copyrights for 70 years after the creator is dead. That deters creativity.

    Didn't Shakespeare himself use other people's story lines? Well, in today's world, he'd have to wait or pay the estate.

  2. Except many of Shakespeare's sources would be (by today's standards) public domain: historical figures, Greek myths, venerable stories of yore, or even (in the Tempest) breaking news.

  3. But Shakespeare cribbed big chunks from recent translations of the classics (Plutarch in "Antony and Cleopatra," for example). He also sampled plots and characters of other recent plays. And he wasn't copyright protected himself — anyone could (and did) perform his work, re-write it, etc. And yet somehow he managed to get by. The Turow etc. argument is terrible.

  4. I agree kj, your link leads to an excellent dismantling of the argument's claim for a cause celebre concerning playwrights in general and Shakespeare in particular.

    I'm all for intellectual and literary copyrights. What bothers me, is the spurious rationale used to 'reasonably' tighten up on information exchange that usually results as a knee-jerk reaction to complaints as loud as these. In the end, 'we' usually lose ground, in some way, as it concerns overall access. The battle over net neutrality is far from over. They'll connect the dots back to issues such as this one somehow.

  5. Duane, it is "our" James Shapiro. He of "Contested Will" and "A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare". I wonder what his piracy paranoia might be about?

    –Maybe he's been hanging out with Bill Gates? 🙂

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