Re: Authors Guild Op-Ed on Copyright in New York Times

For those of you who may have missed it, on Tuesday The New York Times published an op-ed on copyright policy by Scott Turow, Paul Aiken, and James Shapiro. Scott Turow testified yesterday before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, “Targeting Websites Dedicated to Stealing American Intellectual Property.” We’ll post his written testimony soon.

The opening to the op-ed follows.

Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?
By SCOTT TUROW, PAUL AIKEN and JAMES SHAPIRO

ARCHAEOLOGISTS finished a remarkable dig last summer in East London. Among their finds were seven earthenware knobs, physical evidence of a near perfect 16th-century experiment into the link between commerce and culture.

When William Shakespeare was growing up in rural Stratford-upon-Avon, carpenters at that East London site were erecting the walls of what some consider the first theater built in Europe since antiquity. Other playhouses soon rose around the city. Those who paid could enter and see the play; those who didn’t, couldn’t.

By the time Shakespeare turned to writing, these “cultural paywalls” were abundant in London: workers holding moneyboxes (bearing the distinctive knobs found by the archaeologists) stood at the entrances of a growing number of outdoor playhouses, collecting a penny for admission.

At day’s end, actors and theater owners smashed open the earthenware moneyboxes and divided the daily take. From those proceeds dramatists were paid to write new plays. For the first time ever, it was possible to earn a living writing for the public.

Money changed everything. Almost overnight, a wave of brilliant dramatists emerged, including Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare.  Read more

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