Ancient words

Kirn points out yet another reason why you shouldn’t copyright your work if you want to leave a legacy. I hadn’t thought about this part of the problem. He shows parallel passages from Roald Dahl’s novel ‘Witches’, with the latest edition bowdlerized by Woke idiocy.

Recently the ancient word usufruct popped into my ancient head for no reason. I realized that I didn’t know its exact meaning so looked it up and found two other ancient words.

Paraphrased from 1927 Yale Law Journal:

A life estate is a feudal conception; a usufruct is an analytical division of ownership created by the logical mind of the Romans. Thus, ownership has been separated into three rights: usus, fructus, abusus.

Usus is the right to use the thing.

Fructus is the right to gather its fruits and products which can be taken without endangering its substance.

Abusus is the right to dispose of the substance by partition, destruction, sale or gift.

Usufructus has been defined as a use of the thing which leaves the corpus intact, salva rerum substantia.

When you buy a copy of a book, you get usus and abusus of the physical paper, but not fructus of the underlying text. You can read it, toss it, make notes, cross out parts you don’t like, replace page 32 with a different page. These alterations are common and encouraged in books used for a serious purpose, like technical manuals.

BUT: You can’t COPY the book in original or altered form. You don’t have fructus.

Usufructus is the common but incomplete conception of copyright. We imagine that the copyright owner has usus and fructus but NOT abusus. The publisher defends the property and harvests its fruits, but without cutting down the plants or changing their nature.

In fact the owner of a copyright has all three privileges. Previously I was highlighting disposal. When you sell your rights to a publisher, the publisher can simply discard the work, and you can’t use it again. Nobody can use it.

Kirn is focusing on the substance-altering side of abusus. The publisher owns Dahl’s farm in all three parts, so the publisher is perfectly free to hybridize and graft the plants to produce skunk cabbage instead of dahlias. The publisher is also free to sell the skunk cabbage as dahlias, and nobody can legally question the name.

= = = = =

Footnote for clarity: If a work is explicitly public domain, a satanic publisher like Puffin would still be able to alter the work and publish. But they wouldn’t be able to BLOCK sane publishers or archivers. Copyright is about BLOCKING, not protecting.

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