The Sanction of the Victim

by Michael Hart on June 1, 2011

Gutenberg Printing Press

Consider this question:

Would any of our modern publishers be able to compete with a mind and heart such as that of Johannes Gutenberg?

Yet they, and their predecessors, The Stationers, managed to take over the entire world of The Gutenberg Press with the first of an era of legal manipulation we call “Intellectual Property.”

This takeover reduced the number of books in print to 10% of what they had been the day before the first copyright law took place — and returned the control of all publishing to The Stationers, who had had it for all previous history before Gutenberg.

The current ripoff royalty structure of 5% was imposed, meaning a single dollar out of every $20 you pay over the country goes from you to the author, and all the rest goes to publishing emperors — and their various hired personnel that stand between you and that author you love so much, each taking what they consider to be the fair share to which they are entitled…only that share is made possible only by the world of monopoly….

Think about this when you hear about the world in which monopoly, copyright, and other powers are used to enable one person, or some business they control, to own entire libraries of books, music or movies that would have long since expired under the copyright law they were created and contracted under.

These people, such as Ted Turner and Co., have made more millions from these titles than did those who originally created them


Because the copyright laws have been manipulated so that an owner of any copyright [until very recently] was under the impression a copyright could not last and thus was willing to take payments of drastically less than their work was worth due to the stroke pens made when enacting new copyright laws that voided the old ones!!!

Read on….

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press he changed life as we know it forever on this planet more than any other person, since the ages of the lever, fire and the wheel.

Literacy changed from being the exclusive province of the elitist nobility, the most wealthy, and, of course, The Church.

Instead, the common people could afford books, that had cost prices equal to that of the family farm before The Gutenberg Press. A progressive feedback loop was created which would lead from early revolutions in literacy, to later revolutions in educations, then to Scientific Revolution and eventually to The Industrial Revolution, that everyone studies all too superficially in school, so that our appreciation of these, some of the greatest events in history, is severely limited. Along with these severe limitations comes quite literally an equally severe, but much more current, limitation of the current Computer Revolution that could be doing the same from our modern point of view as The Gutenberg Press did in its day.

The reason we don’t appreciate The Gutenberg Press is due to some earlier publishing guild known as “The Stationers,” from which we still derive our terms from writing paper, writing desks, etc. The Stationers and their predecessors, the scribes, had a monopoly on publishing for literally all of history. In fact the term “prehistoric,” if you care to look it up, refers to the period before things were written down.

Such is the power of The Written Word that all our history is the conceptual division of things before and after The Written Word.

We Westerners tend to talk about “The Pre-Columbian Era,” but the world at large would be much better off, intellectually, to refer to that same period as “The Pre-Gutenberg Era.” You see, Columbus sailed to The New World just as Gutenberg Press technology was printing more books in its first 50 years than had been made in all the thousands of years of previous history. However, and I’m sad to say it, the world is even more afraid to give Gutenberg his due today than it did in the days of Columbus.

In case you didn’t know, perhaps the biggest “World’s Fair” of all time was “The Columbian Exposition” in Chicago, to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus landing in America.

By the way, for those historical rewriters who say he never quite made it the United States, Puerto Rico has been part of the U.S., and had been long before this de-canonization of Columbus began. Let me assure you, however, that this de-canonization of Columbus began long before the 500th anniversary. I have experience on this at a very personal level as I own a collection of 65 prints from The Columbian Exposition, of the rare silver nitrate variety, that are museum quality, and yet no museum would give me a time of day consideration when I offered to lend them in 1992 for those 500th anniversary events that somehow never took place.

These people knew they weren’t going to happen years and years in advance of 1992 which suggests that they had all decided years in advance that such exhibits were never going to happen.

So…what happened???

What happened, in both cases, is The Seven Deadly Sins.

The result of these Seven Deadly sins is that the world loses.

We lose the great effort that is stifled by both official means & unofficial means: official in the sense that The Stationers were able, after 250 years of concentrated effort, to stifle the press that had replaced their thousands of years monopoly, and thus, to get their monopoly back after the first copyright law gave them a complete control of all printing presses in The United Kingdom.

The result was that the number of books in print was reduced to a paltry 600 from 6,000 literally overnight, as censorship became a powerful fact of life. Not only censorship, but competition died along with it, so one had to not only pay serious cash to publish and come to London to pay it, but one also had to curry favor and all those social goings on of the era.

If you don’t already understand what an “insider trading” life in London was like, just to get introduced to the right people, your understanding might be assuaged by some reading of the era from a few sources such as The Bronte Sisters, Jane Austen, etc.

To put it mildly, it was once again impossible for the common man or woman to even consider being published, after 250 years of the most revolutionary period in all publishing history. This is what started the modern day “business plan” of screwing a whole world of authors to the tune of paying them only $1 of $20, out of the money paid over the counter for their work.

When you have a monopoly, you can get away with nearly anything — and given that the current average hasn’t changed from that 5% in the 300 years since, we must presume the realistic evaluation of a publishing monopoly has not changed much since then, in spite of – very much in spite of, all the publicity and press releases doing all they can to tell us that modern day publishing is much freer, nearly totally free, by comparison.

Just try to get published by any of the top dozen or two names!!!

Before anyone comes up with the obvious exceptions, let me say on the record that J.K. Rowling renegotiated her contract to 8%, and became the richest women in The United Kingdom, so they say.

Now, on the other hand, you have to consider that for each dollar or pound that Rowling ever got from her books the publishers, and their hired guns, get twelve to twenty, depending on which books.

Thus, when you think about, the only thing that keeps them from a similar position as the richest in the U.K., is that they spent a major portion of their billions instead of saving or investing, or that they have very tricky bookkeeping practices, to make it seem as if they really aren’t that wealthy.

Today, thanks so some wierdo who invented eBooks and published an entire eLibrary free on and off the internet, we have alternative methods of publication that anyone can use, and while the publish or perish empire keeps yelling about losing their power to eBooks you can easily see that they are climbing on the eBooks bandwagon in a manner very reminiscent of ants and cockroaches, once they’re aware of the goodies you have.

Thus you can see how people who could never match the talents and drives of Herr Gutenberg, and the others who created technology we all too much take for granted, nevertheless took over his talented work to which they had no moral right, but still managed to get a legal right that continues, in spades, to this day.

Why in spades?

Because the same kind of legal manipulations are taking place now that have made U.S. copyrights as long as Congress wants them.

Infinite copyright!!!

Permanent copyright!!!

Death to the Public Domain!!!

Death to the public interest!!!

Everything of our culture becomes privately owned, even fair use in college is under threat. Just look up the Georgia State University case, also include term “Cambridge” to get the best hits, perhaps also “copyright.”

We allow these people to buy and sell copyrights and patents from the standpoint of “speculators” who have no direct interest, only the profits made from allowing, or not allowing, use!!!

Yes, there are many new corporations who make virtually all their money from lawsuits to stop people from using things.

The ideal of making something in order to make money…is dying right in front of us…so is the ideal of the public domain and fair use.

by Michael S. Hart
Founder of Project Gutenberg
Inventor of eBooks

co-Founder of the World eBook Fair
Five million free ebooks — July 4-August 4, 2011

If you liked this post, say thanks by sharing it.