Fun Friday Resources

One of the Precepts of Lichtenbergianism is STEAL FROM THE BEST, and in the book I write about how musicians of the past stole freely from each other: Bach's Concerto for Four Harpsichord is his transcription of Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins, Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, all that kind of thing.

I also talk briefly about copyright protection and how we cannot literally steal from another artist—the old dictum of "Good artists borrow; great artists steal" must be interpreted metaphorically and artistically, at least where works still protected by the law are concerned.


And right on cue, law professors from the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain have released a graphic novel: Theft! A History of Music, a study of how musicians have stolen from each other for the past two millennia, up to and including our current culture of sampling and hommage.

You can get a good overview of what it's about at Open Culture, and you can download it or read it online — for free — at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

It's long, over 250 pages, and I'm about a fifth of the way through it at this writing.  It's a solid history of musical intellectual property, laying down the foundations of the very idea from ancient Greece.

It's very witty, with execrable pop culture puns, although the requisite snarky banter sometimes misfires.  (I can't tell who's supposed to be annoyed with whom, and I gave up on trying to determine whether there were some kind of love triangle thing going on after about fifteen pages.)

But it's thorough and well-structured—I'm learning things and seeing connections that are new to me. I recommend it.