Claim: Copyright was created so England could enforce censorship

Response: There are two problems I see with this argument:

First, England was not the first country with copyright. The first known copyright was in Venice, and it was granted to an author who petitioned the government in Venice so that he would have exclusive rights to publish his own book for a period of ten years. This was done to prevent other publishers coming in and printing/selling his book without paying him. In other words, he would have a better chance of earning adequate payment for his time spent writing the book if other publishers couldn’t undermine his book sales by printing his book without paying him.

Second, this claim suffers from the “genetic fallacy”. Presumably, the pirate making this argument wants to suggest that copyright is about censorship. Whether or not copyright was originally created as a way for the English crown to censor books they didn’t like is largely irrelevant. It’s a bit like saying, “Marriage was originally created to force women to be sexually faithful to a man. It is inherently sexist and is about men controlling women”. Whether or not marriage was created as part of a system to enforce “male patriarchy” is irrelevant in modern society because things change – i.e. what marriage is today is not the same as what marriage was a thousand years ago.

The genetic fallacy, also known as fallacy of origins, fallacy of virtue, is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context.

“You’re not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don’t you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands? I would not have thought you would be a party to such a sexist practice.”

There are numerous motives explaining why people choose to wear wedding rings, but it would be a logical fallacy to presume those who continue the tradition are doing so with the intent of promoting sexism.

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