Talmudic Copyright

Whoever tells a thing in the name of the one who said it, brings redemption into the world.”  (Pirkey Avot 6:6, and in Talmud Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud) Megilah 15A, Hulin 104B, and Niddah 19B.)

While the area of intellectual property becomes ever more complex and confining, it deals only with the rights of the owner of the “property” in question, not with the rights of the people who actually created the work in the first place, if they are not the current owners. Cases in point: (1) Milli Vanilli, which got rich lip-synching the performance of another group, whose names (individually and collectively) the public has never been able to ascertain; (2) Paul Anka’s infamous “Having My Baby,” in which the female soloist (who is, presumably, playing the role of the person who is in fact having the baby) is never named; and (3) somewhat less well-known except in Chicago folk music circles, Jan Hobson and her Bad Revue, whose best-known songs (“Throw Your Cat Away” and “The Racoon Song”) she filched from her ex-boyfriend, who used to sing with the group, and whose name, again, the public has never been able to find out.

Legally, I think such arrangements have a serious flaw. Yes, an artist can sell somebody else the rights to perform the work in question and get paid for it, if all the requirements of contract law are fulfilled. But the artist can’t waive the right of the public to know the artist’s name (or at least his/her/their pseudonym) and allow the new owner of the “rights” to fool the public into believing that the owner is also the artist. (Any more than the custodial parent of a child can waive the child’s right to receive child support from the other parent.)

For yet another slant on intellectual property law, take a look at Lawrence Lessig and the Creative Commons (creativecommons.org/) with more regard for creator’s right to credit and the public’s right to know the creator’s identity than conventional intellectual property law.

So anyway, that’s how the writings of the Wired Sisters is protected. Don’t mess with it.


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