Thursday, April 16, 2009

I propose an excise tax on books!

The publisher inherits, or gains from, besides his personal merit, the intrinsic and public value of the text: for, as much by its sublimity, the works of a great name are magnified by the accumulated admiration of readers.

Thus, the [copyright] law does not suppress heredity, for the reason that it cannot, but the revenue itself channels itself toward a third party, or several, who have no claim to it: the law merely proposes to interrupt it.

To effect a transfer.

For whose benefit, certainly, that will take place without any intrusion. You see here the ideal inheritors, substituted for direct filiation by blood. In addition, in the case of literature, there is the particularity that the famous author did not always enjoy, while he was alive, or while his heirs were alive, the financial benefits of his works.

{I propose an excise tax on books!}

The revenue should go to beginners, by way of their literary elders, an impartial representation of the past. Either in the form of prizes for outstanding works, or as help in publishing works still in manuscript.

The only resentment opposing this idea would come from heirs whose rights are violated, and there aren't any. I don't think I'm here presuming on the well-known delicacy of publishers, when I say that none of them will rise up against a tax, in any case minor. Will they be grateful? Perhaps indeed yes, given that the privileges of an incomplete law are susceptible to abuse. The nation will have the opportunity to install, for a moderate price, a system totally worthy of praise.

The public Domain perfectly represents the public square, or some public building. The place belongs to the mass of citizens; it doesn't belong to any one. One doesn't do business there for one's own sake without executing oneself. The speculator who convokes people to the public square to testify to his hard work ceases to be a part of all, and divests himself of a right.

- - Stéphane Mallarmé (tr. Barbara Johnson, slightly redacted here)

1 comment:

Jordan said...

That's amusing. Begs the question of how much publishers rely on public domain materials to keep afloat these days. (And sidesteps the question of how many publishers will keep on floating...)