But that guild's monopoly inspired dissent, and here, too, the objections sound familiar. The poet John Milton called the Stationers "monopolizers in the trade of book-selling" who do not "labour in an honest profession."
Things haven't changed that much.
But this time, there is an important difference. When a breakdown of control over patents and copyrights is championed today, it is imagined not as a triumph for authors (as was initially the case in the 18th century) or as a triumph for profiteers or national ambitions (as in the industrial espionage of the 19th) but as a form of liberation: The ideology has changed.
The authors still don't benefit. Encouraging progress is more directed to encouraging the disseminators rather than the originators.
But take a few steps back, and you can hear the firings of ideological muskets. Traditional arguments over public good and private rights have taken a turn; this time, idealism confronts materialism, socialism confronts capitalism, beliefs about communal virtue confront conceptions of individualism.
Karl Marx survived the Berlin Wall and moved to Stanford?