illegal copy in Mars & Medak 2019

o have
in order to be copyrightable. Legal interpretations set a very low
standard on what counts as original, as their function is no more
than to demarcate one creative contribution from another. Once
a legal title is unambiguously assigned, there is a person holding

property with whose consent the contracting, commodification,
and marketing of the work can proceed.5 In that respect copyright
is not that different from the requirement of formal freedom that
is granted to a laborer to contract out their own labor-­power as a
commodity to capital, giving capital authorization to extract maximum productivity and appropriate the products of the laborer’s
labor.6 Copyright might be just a more efficient mechanism of
exploitation as it unfolds through selling of produced commodities
and not labor power. Art market obscures and mediates the
capital-­labor relation
When we talk today of illegal copying, we primarily mean an
infringement of the legal rights of authors and publishers. There’s an
immediate assumption that the infringing practice of illegal copying
and distribution falls under the domain of juridical sanction, that it is
a matter of law. Yet if we look to the history of copyright, the illegality
of copying was a political matter long before it became a legal one.
Publisher’s rights, author’s rights, and mechanisms of reputation—­
the three elements that are fundamental to the present-­day
copyright system—­all have their historic roots in the context of
absolutism and early capitalism in seventeenth-­and eighteenth-­
century Europe. Before publishers and authors were given a
temporary monopoly over the exploitation of their publications
instituted in the form of copyright, they were operating in a system
where they were forced to obtain a privilege to print books from
royal censors. The first printing privileges granted to publishers, in
early seventeenth-­century Great Britain,7 came with the responsibility of pub


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