Monday, December 03, 2007

Copyright, Calfs, Cows, and Cash

Deirdre McMurdy delightfully takes the copyright wars back to what some say is the beginning, i.e. the struggle between St. Finnian of Moville and St. Columba of Iona over St. Columba's copying of a psalter that belonged to St. Finnian. Hopefully, the forthcoming battle on Parliament Hill will be more restrained than the confrontation in 651 AD in in the battle of Cul Dreimhne, where there were some 2,000 casualties. Indeed, this epic is immortalized in a display in the WIPO building.

But Ms. McMurdy also provides a good update and checklist of what will start to play out any day now on the cold, snowy Parliament Hill. Complete with references to missionaries and their zeal.

For those who want to know more about Saints Finnian and Columba, see here:
St. Columba was born on December 7, ca. 521 A.D. to Fedhlimidh and Eithne of the Ui Neill clan in Gartan (Donegal). As a young man, Columba soon took an interest in the church, joined the monastery at Moville, and was ordained a deacon by St. Finnian. After studying with a bard called Gemman, Columba was ordained a priest by Etchen, the bishop of Clonfad. Columba entered the monastery of Mobhi Clarainech, and when disease forced the disbanding of that monastery, Columba went north and founded the church of Derry. Tradition has it that after founding several other monasteries, Columba copied St. Finnian's psalter without the permission of Finnian, and thus devalued the book. When Finnian took the matter to High King Dermott for judgement, Dermott judged in favor of Finnian, stating "to every cow its calf; to every book its copy" (I am borrowing this quote from Cathach Books in Dublin). Columba refused to hand over the copy, and Dermott forced the issue militarily. Columba's family and clan defeated Dermott at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561. Tradition further holds that St. Molaisi of Devenish, Columba's spiritual father, ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die as pennance. In 563, Columba landed on Iona with 12 disciples, and founded a new monastery. After founding several more monasteries, confounding the local druids, and participating in another battle (this time against St. Comgall over who owned the church of Colethem), Columba died on June 9, 597.
Source: Life of Saint Columba, Founder of Hy. Written by Adamnan, Ninth Abbot of that Monastery, ed. William Reeves. (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874) I

(emphasis added)

Note that this famous quote may help to explain why copyright is now such a "cash cow" for certain special interest groups. ;-)


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