Culture vs. Copyright: A Diary of a Naive Philosopher, Book Review

By Anatoly Volynets

This was the mark of the Stationer’s Company,
which had a monopoly on printing rights in England from
1557 to 1710.  The image is in the public domain.

Innovators often have a hard time convincing people to change the way things “have always been done”. History offers startling examples of how tightly people hold onto entrenched views. In the 1950’s, for example, early models of the kidney dialysis machine were considered “abominations” by some doctors at Mt. Sinai Hospital. And in the nineteenth century, Ignaz Semmelweiss was derided by medical colleagues for suggesting doctors should wash their hands before assisting at childbirth. So prepare yourself to resist the notions of Anatoly Volynets when you read his book, Culture vs. Copyright. In the book, Mr. Volynets suggests that artists, and the public, would benefit if copyright laws were eliminated.

Many readers may feel this discussion has little to do with them. They’re probably wrong. Just about anyone who engages in commerce or communication is affected by copyright laws. Posting a picture on Facebook may easily violate those laws, if the picture is lifted from a copyright-protected source on the Internet. Quoting extensively from a book or article also may be a violation. Of course, professional artists–authors, musicians, photographers, for example–are acutely aware of the protection and limitation that copyright law places on their actions. Most of these professionals cannot imagine operating in a system where copyright does not exist. They imagine that absent copyright protection, they will lose income from the product of their unique talents. Mr. Volynets labors to convince them–and us–that the reverse is true.

In service of his argument, Mr. Volynets traces the history of modern copyright laws. He points to a time in France (Jacobin era) and England (before 1710) when these laws did not exist and explains that their application was designed to benefit businesses and governments, not individuals. It is Mr. Volynets contention that this is still the case. He explains in detail how eliminating copyright laws would give artists greater freedom (in his opinion) to market their wares in a competitive environment. He also explains his belief that without copyright laws, competition between business would increase and this would potentially increase profits.

Mr. Volynets puts forth an interesting argument. Whether or not the reader is persuaded is almost beside the point. The aspect of this book that is most important is that it requires readers to examine an accepted custom. It asks readers to throw out established notions about the necessity of copyright laws.

Copyright laws are not written in stone. They are constantly amended. If the public does not understand who is served by the law and by the amendments, then the public cannot meaningfully participate in the discussion about these very important regulations. And if the public doesn’t participate, then the regulations will be written by powerful, vested interests. That, in my opinion, is never a good thing.
Although this book serves a worthy goal and may elicit a response from readers, it is not perfect. A device Mr. Volynets employs, for much of the book, is an imagined dialogue between first graders and a teacher. My patience was tested by these exercises. At one point I simply stopped reading the dialogues and only considered sections that had straight exposition. It is possible I lost some of the book’s significance by taking this route, but I was willing to give that up.

One of my standards for recommending a book of nonfiction is whether or not I came away with insight or information I did not have prior to reading. That is the case here. In addition to discussing the development of intellectual rights legislation in France and England, the book also addresses the origin of this class of regulation in the United States. Volynets explains that the framers of the United States Constitution looked to Europe for a model when they provided (in Article I, Section 8) for protection of intellectual property rights.

Mr. Volynets’ writing style is clear and not overly pedantic, considering the subject under consideration. I do recommend Anatoly Volynets’ Culture vs. Copyright.

A. G. Moore  3/2017

A Burial

swamp website 2018 children fixed2
Swamp: an illustration from my upcoming memoir, Arrows Axes and Scythes

By A. G. Moore

This selection is adapted from my upcoming memoir, Arrows Axes and Scythes.


The move from Krumer’s to Lockwood’s necessitated many adjustments, some positive and some less so. The increased privacy and space were balanced by a cessation of food deliveries. The problem of decreased food supply was exacerbated by an increase in the number of mouths to feed: We began to accumulate pets. Eventually, the number grew to nine. Our pet/food imbalance became a crisis as the animals starved.

I can state with certainty that my mother asked for none of the animals. She didn’t particularly enjoy having pets, but was a compassionate person. Once a pet had been remitted to her custody, she cared for it. The animals sensed this, and they loved her.

Our pets were a hodgepodge of pedigree and mutt. Some were strays and some were delivered to our door in a misguided attempt to give the pets a home. One of these charges was contributed by my father. He found a huge animal, a St. Bernard/Great Dane mix, rummaging in the garbage behind a restaurant. This “rescued” animal, Boots, became a beloved member of the family.

Another dog was brought to the home by my mother’s brother, Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy was important to the family because he owned three dry cleaning stores in Brooklyn. He regularly gave us abandoned clothes, in excellent condition. These were the core of our school wardrobe. Uncle Jimmy’s Chihuahua, Chico, was no longer welcome in his home. That’s how we got Chico.

With nine dogs in the home, and no regular food supply, my mother tried to manage. Potatoes, delivered by my uncles, were cooked and mashed for human consumption. Peels were for the dogs.

Because hunger was their perpetual companion, the dogs took measures. They foraged in neighbors’ trash. Complaints poured in, but my mother couldn’t control the animals and she couldn’t feed them. So the neighbors, or at least one of them, took their own measures. They poisoned the dogs.

Dogs began to turn up dead. They came home to die. We discovered them in various stages of decay. It was Clinton’s job to bury the deceased, but since this was a family tragedy, everybody pitched in.

With the earth frozen, burial was a particular challenge. Clinton’s solution? A bog, a quicksand pool, he found in the forest. In the picture below, the scene of a burial is depicted, as I recall it. This memory is clear.

We dragged our dog, Hortense, up to the bog. Clinton threw her, as respectfully as he could, onto the mud and we waited for her to disappear. In a very little while the surface was smooth again and Hortense was no more.

Prologue to Arrows Axes and Scythes


Witness: an illustration from Arrow Axes and Scythes

Below is the Prologue to my upcoming illustrated memoir, Arrow Axes and Scythes.  While the book recalls a time long passed, the influence of those years lasted a lifetime.  The Prologue explains the author’s attempt to convey the emotional content of memory without distorting the essential truth of events.

We are all invisible witnesses. If not for this, how many crimes would be reported?

I think we imagine that children do not see and if they see they do not understand. We reassure ourselves, as we carry on in our imperfect ways, that even if they understand they surely will forget. But the mind is not so dependably careless with its impressions. Many remain for a lifetime.

The events recorded in this book occurred more than fifty years ago, when I was a child. Some memories are lost to me, yet many come back. Are these accurate? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Ideas are not preserved in amber. They are subject to the whims of experience and bias.

My childhood was a time of secrets. Much that is revealed here was never meant to be public. But what I could not say then, will now be told.

At the end of the book one of the personalities, my father, offers testimony for himself. A letter exists in which he describes motivation for his actions. Readers may weigh this evidence and decide for themselves whether or not the document supports my value as a witness.




An excerpt is offered in another blog on this site: A Burial