March 31, 2003  ·  Lessig

Thanks to Sean McGrath for sending me this wonderful story about the first copyright wars. The story is told in Ingenious Ireland by Mary Mulvihill, about the 3000 men who died in the “Battle of the Book at Cooldrumman” after copyists refused to return the copies after a court ruled against them. Perspective perhaps, but precedent too?

  • Timothy Phillips

    The “to every cow its calf” story first appears in that form in the “Life of Columcille” compiled on the orders of Donegal chieftan Manus O’Donnell. The “Life” was completed in 1520 or 1530 or thereabouts. This is prior to the introduction of moveable type into Ireland (c. 1550) but well after the knowledge of the issues raised by moveable type will have had a chance to reach Ireland.

    We should not cite this anecdote as if it were a genuine 6th-century event, or even as an anecdote reflecting the cultural assumptions of the 6th century.