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Medieval Copy Protection 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the thou-shall-write-your-own-book dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In medieval times a 'book curse' was often included on the inside cover or on the last leaf of a manuscripts, warning away anyone who might do the book some harm. Here's a particularly pretty one from Yale's Beinecke MS 214: 'In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. In the one thousand two hundred twenty-ninth year from the incarnation of our Lord, Peter, of all monks the least significant, gave this book to the [Benedictine monastery of the] most blessed martyr, St. Quentin. If anyone should steal it, let him know that on the Day of Judgment the most sainted martyr himself will be the accuser against him before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.'"
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Medieval Copy Protection

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  • by XanC (644172) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:04PM (#33318070)

    That's theft protection. Copyright infringement != theft, remember?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:12PM (#33318164)

      Slashdot: where we don't bother reading the summary, let alone the article, when writing the headline.

    • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:14PM (#33318192) Journal

      Precisely.

      The need to curse thieves of expensive hand-written Bibles disappeared when the printing press appeared, and Bibles became as plentiful as leaves to wipe your arse. Then nobody cared if you took it from the church (it was easily replaced). Some even started giving bibles away, in order to educate the masses. And of course the bible is not and never has been copy-protected.

      • Even with St. Quentin as the Plaintiff and Jesus Christ as the Judge - I think if I had a better lawyer I could still win.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nextekcarl (1402899)

          I thought there were no lawyers allowed in heaven by definition?

          • by jd (1658)

            There are no lawyers in heaven, but there are some actors who have played lawyers on TV.

      • Guessing at the literacy rates in 1229, what are the chances that a sticky-fingered thief would also be able to read the curse in order to feel the dread that it was meant to create? Did they have a literacy program for miscreants?
        • Guessing at the literacy rates in 1229, what are the chances that a sticky-fingered thief would also be able to read the curse in order to feel the dread that it was meant to create?

          I suspect the literacy rate among people who would be inclined to steal books was pretty high.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I suspect the literacy rate among people who would be inclined to steal books was pretty high.

            Because all of our modern-day jewel thieves go around adorned like Mr. T? You steal something, not because it is valuable to you, but because it is valuable to someone.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maxwell demon (590494)

        However I've once heard about some valuable illustrated bible in medieval Ireland, of which a monk from another monastery (or maybe it were several, quite probably, I'd say) made (by hand, of course) an exact copy (as exact as copies could be made that way). The monastery who owned the original version didn't like that and wanted the copy to be destroyed. They asked the pope, and the pope indeed ordered that the copy was to be destroyed.

        Unfortunately I can't verify that story or give further details (I tri

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pdcull (469825)
          That story - or one very similar - is in the book "How the Irish saved civilization [amazon.com]" by Thomas Cahill (chapter 6), where a monk named Columcille made an unauthorized copy of a psalter that belonged to the Bishop Finian of Clonard. The dispute as to whether he could keep the unauthorized copy was resolved by the King Diarmait, whose decision in history’s first copyright case was logical: "To every cow her calf; to every book its copy". However, for some reason the RIAA must have existed in some mediev
      • by russ1337 (938915)

        And of course the bible is not and never has been copy-protected.

        is that because you cannot copyright a fact?

        *ducks*

        (hopefully the above comment will be seen for the humor intended)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by N_Piper (940061)
        The Bible was copy protected, with a prejudice, by the Roman Catholic Church. Smashing printing presses and burning heretics at the steak were quite common ways of making sure only the Priestly caste had access to the Bible.
        This is basic Church history learn it love it then leave it.
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Legally, there is crown copyright to some bible texts in the U.K. at least. There, you can't freely copy King James bible IIRC. I know, it's ridiculous.

    • I always thought that a good form of copy protection for pdf ebooks would be to have an automated system take your credit card number, verify it, and embed it on every page of the pdf. Then I don't have to worry about you spreading the file. You get to do the policing for me, because you sure as hell don't want that number getting out into the wild. If I find a copy on P2P, then I'll know exactly who to look up in my database. See, simple.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        So, obviously, modifying the pdf file to remove the watermark is impossible. You win, truly.

  • FBI warning (Score:5, Funny)

    by donnyspi (701349) <junk5@donnys[ ]com ['pi.' in gap]> on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:05PM (#33318074) Homepage
    They should put message at the beginning of movies instead of the stupid FBI warning thing.
    • by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:12PM (#33318170)
      I love how even those of us who are in Canada have to sit through the FBI warning. And Canadians have to sit through it twice (English version then French).

      They should use warning from The IT Crowd.
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Heck, those throughout the world, downloading the stuff, apparently also often have the opportunity of sitting through that warning...

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by maxwell demon (590494)

          Well, in Germany I don't (with pressed DVDs). I've once selected English language directly when starting a several-language DVD, so I know the spot this is about. But it's easy to avoid even if I want to see the DVD in English, by simply selecting German initially and then switching to English as soon as the main menu appears. I've then tried other languages on that DVD as well, but IIRC the German version was the only one without the spot (one language, I don't remember which, did use a different spot, how

      • by HermDog (24570) on Friday August 20, 2010 @05:44PM (#33319330)
        If you illegally copy "Twilight" you're cursed with a copy of "Twilight"
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RollingThunder (88952)

        That damned FBI warning, plus all the "nope, you can't skip these ads" crap, is half of the reason why I rip almost all my DVD's, stick them on the file/mediaserver, and then play them through my PS/3's media client functionality. Obviously, I _don't_ rip anything but the main movie track, no more having to sit through 8 freaking ads just so my kid can watch her Thomas movie.

    • Lawyers from TFA, and the animated FBI warning at the start of it, would like to have a word with you
    • by bhagwad (1426855)
      What's the use? the FBI warning is much less effective than the the primitive warning of damnation given above!
    • FBI Warning parody according to the IT Crowd for those not seen it.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d82Lq2rVB_4 [youtube.com]

      Possible political dig at the end...a US FBI agent assasinating a movie downloader on foreign soil?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      I don't mind the official FBI warning, but the one they slap on after words to make it seem legit pisses me off.

      Actually waht pisses me off is not being able to skip them; which is stupid beyond recognition.

  • Equally Effective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pwnies (1034518) <j@jjcm.org> on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:05PM (#33318078) Homepage Journal
    I see that the effectiveness of DRM hasn't changed in 800 years.
    • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:09PM (#33318126) Homepage

      It has actually grown less effective, seeing as how so many people know how to write nowadays.

      If it were up to the copyright lobby, owning a pen would be punishable by fines. :P

      • by mackai (1849630) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:40PM (#33318526)
        The copyright lobby would be more likely want an additional fee added to the purchase of every pen based on the amount of text you could potentially copy before the ink ran out. This fee would be provided to book publishers to offset the losses they might encounter should you decide to copy portions of the book instead of purchasing an additional copy of the book.
        • by jack2000 (1178961)
          Don't give them any ideas. The air heads tried to push a law in my country that would add a fee to every CD/DVD that can be written on. This fee would then go to the local branch of the RIAA.
          Truly evil I tell you. The whole thing was shot down by the press and the people.
    • by westlake (615356)

      I see that the effectiveness of DRM hasn't changed in 800 years.

      Medieval books were often chained in place.

      I can't imagine it would have been patricularly healthy to cross the fuedal lord who commisioned a uniquely bound and decorated Book of Hours.

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:08PM (#33318112) Homepage

    I think it would be pretty kick-ass to have some Saint materialize and lay on some whup-ass to would be thieves.

    *gasp* THE BISHOP!

    • there was a medieval book called "SaintRoulette" that had this feature but it didn't work out too well. The Saint materialized, but all he did was hold up a sign that said "tits or gtfo"

    • by enjerth (892959)

      *gasp* THE BISHOP!

      [enter Michael Palin]
      Thank you, thank you everybody. You're too kind. <cheesy smile>

      What do you call a nun who walks in her sleep? <cheesy smile> A Roamin' Catholic. Ha ha ha, wasn't that just grand? <cheesy smile>

      And now, on with the show! <cheesy smile>

      Today we have three contestants. <cheesy smile> Tim, Edward, and Susan. <cheesy smile>

      Tim is an accountant by day, but at night he illegally bittorents films and sells them to his friends. <cheesy smile>
      Edward is in

  • No wonder (Score:5, Funny)

    by boristdog (133725) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:09PM (#33318116)

    No wonder my crops failed and there was a rain of toads on the farm after I downloaded "Superman III".

    • Re:No wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:14PM (#33318184) Homepage

      That was because God withdrew his protection from you for the abomination of wanting to watch Superman III. Everyone knows that only the first two Christopher Reeve films were any good.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        That was because God withdrew his protection from you for the abomination of wanting to watch Superman III. Everyone knows that only the first two Christopher Reeve films were any good.

        That also depends on your definition of "good." They are entertaining, but during the first movie I can't get past the fact that Superman isn't fast enough to catch the two missiles while in the very same movie he starts flying so fast he goes back in time. In the second movie, the "wtf" moment is the entire final scene against the other Kryptonians at the fortress of solitude. What the hell was up with the throwing of the uniform insignia?

        That said, they had good, quotable parts. The first movie had, "

      • Re:No wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 20, 2010 @05:14PM (#33318902)
        All I can say for 3 is that the Smallville stuff and the Evil Superman stuff wasn't bad. It wasn't good, but it was "Citizen Kane" next to the abomination that was "The Quest for Peace."
        • by geekoid (135745)

          And it had a much smaller plot hole the Citizen Kane.

          He died alone, no one could have heard him say rosebud.

  • Famously.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mattdm (1931) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:13PM (#33318176) Homepage

    The Book of Revelation ends like this:

    [18] For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: [19] And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. [20] He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

    Not copy-protection, but an "invariant section" definition as in the GFDL [debian.org]. The translation is medieval, but the original and therefore clearly the practice is much older. Since there was no government-provided copyright law with which to enforce this, threatening eternal damnation is pretty much the only resort available. (Right?)

    (Sidenote: of course, this was written before that book was commonly bound into a single-volume manuscript, but that doesn't stop people from assuming that they were meant to apply to the entire bible in its current form.)

    • The LDS church believes the "invariant section" only applies to the book of Revelations, and other books may be added, deleted, or modified based on the divine guidance of their current prophet.
    • by frisket (149522)

      threatening eternal damnation is pretty much the only resort available. (Right?)

      When I was in high school (very traditional high school — we learned Latin) in 19humtpyhum, smart-ass kids would write curses into their schoolbooks Illicitly: the books belonged to the school, not them). One in wide use was:

      Hic liber est meus
      Testis est Deus
      Si quis furetur
      Per collum pendetur

      (This book is mine / As God is my witness / If anyone steals it / Let him be hanged by the neck.) I later saw it printed in a book about education, so doubtless it was, umm, "borrowed" without the author's knowledg

      • I went to a similar school.

        I drew obscene flip cartoons on the edges of my Latin texts. (which I bought)

        They refused to buy them back, so I burnt them with great ceremony and some incorrect Latin curses on any who try to teach me Latin.

        Sophomore Latin is where I was first identified as the 'Anti-Christ'.

        A Jesuit would know if anybody would.

  • Imagine that. (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by sunking2 (521698)
    Even slashdot eventually will equate copyright violations with theft.
    • Re:Imagine that. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by countSudoku() (1047544) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:32PM (#33318412) Homepage

      Say it ain't so! :(

      Actually, most good books [sic] in the middle ages were chained to the library shelves, curse or no. It wasn't until the invention of the printing press that books became "unchained" and eventually so ubiquitous that hardcovers became "special" and paperbacks were the order of the day. Personally, just like the music and films I give away to my friends and family, I like to lend out books to interested peoples. Even printed information wants to be free. Bringth me your 100GB+ drive, good sir, and I'll shall layeth upon thine disk drive with mighty hands and bequeath to thee an generous sum of iPod movies and MP3s!!1! Go forth, verily and spread thy good datas, friend! Purchase some, share more.

  • Holy Cow (Score:4, Funny)

    by 2names (531755) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:24PM (#33318306)
    'In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen. In the one thousand two hundred twenty-ninth year from the incarnation of our Lord, Peter, of all monks the least significant, gave this book to the [Benedictine monastery of the] most blessed martyr, St. Quentin. If anyone should steal it, let him know that on the Day of Judgment the most sainted martyr himself will be the accuser against him before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

    That is the longest password I've ever seen.
  • WRONG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JKDguy82 (692274) on Friday August 20, 2010 @04:27PM (#33318336)

    How many times do we have to explain that copying something is different than stealing something?

    It is incredibly *dangerous* to our culture to have the vernacular polluted in a way that equates a criminal deed to a legally mandated civil disregard.

    The title of this article should be changed.

    • Sure, but who would click on an article entitled 'Medieval Anti-Theft Psych-Out Technique'?

  • No more effective than the FBI/INTERPOL warning on a video.
  • I believe that all copies of this book must be immediately destroyed because this was the wish of the original authors.

  • Reads more like a theft deterrent than copy protection.
    • by fyoder (857358)

      Reads more like a theft deterrent than copy protection.

      Exactly. Back then there was no such concept. Copyright emerged as a way of motivating and rewarding authors whose work was, as it had always been, destined for the public domain. It's a limited monopoly, and once that emerges, so does the issue of protecting that monopoly.

  • naive impressionable fools shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of their lives... to find out the next exciting chapter in the riveting saga of xenu and the thetans

    if these people knew up front that they were sacrificing all of their money and years of their lives for bad science fiction, they wouldn't join the stupid cult

    whenever someone leaks their nonsense, they try to sue the leaker into oblivion and insist on erasing the treasured revelations from any appearance outside the cult

    including yours truly here, slashdot:

    http://slashdot.org/yro/01/03/16/1256226.shtml [slashdot.org]

    the tactics of scientology, and medieval monks, are a cautionary tale. they actually represent the end game of intellectual property: i control all the information, so i control you, you are my slave. corporations don't call it a religion, but they do the same tactics, with the same end game, whether they realize it or not. relentlessly, they buy off our legislators, and convince them to pass yet stricter and stricter controls on the flow of information

    for the sake of all of the noble principles that have arisen out of the enlightenment and so many of us cherish so dearly, and have been codified into such things as the constitution and the declaration of independence, you must do your best in your life to sabotage and destroy the effectiveness of intellectual property. intellectual property is a flawed philosophical premise, but its enforcement works because it creates flows of money, that create power bases, that can be invested in further toll booths on the flow of information, until the whole thing is jammed up, strangled, and controlled. the only antidote is enough of us realizing the threat, and sabotaging it. the idea of fighting intellectual property is actually the fight for the continues enjoyment of our freedoms, ultimately, this is the crux of the clash

    and we can do that, with the internet

    intellectual property is the ultimate enemy of the freedoms you enjoy and cherish. the internet is the greatest thing since the printing press to challenge the notion. it's a long, ongoing struggle, pitting the highest principles of mankind, versus the lowest, basest forms of control over your life, for the sake of cash. but if you don't wish you or your children to be slaves to corporations, you will do your best to make intellectual property law unenforceable on the internet. it won't be easy, it won't be done in a day, but its one of the most important struggles of our lives, involving the highest principles you believe in

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by canajin56 (660655)
      Where's your house? I only ask because you claim it's morally reprehensible to ask somebody not to steal, so I assume you have no problem with people breaking in and snatching all of your stuff. As you say, by claiming you somehow have more of a right to your possessions than I do, you're playing the same endgame. You think all other men your slave. That or you're illiterate and totally failed to read even the summary. Did you even read the headline, or is your usual tirade against copyright law only (s
  • Up your Colophon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sgarrigan (1306669) on Friday August 20, 2010 @05:44PM (#33319322)

    Medieval scribes wrote book curses in the "colophon" at the end of the book; here are two favorites:

    Whoever steals this book let him die the death; let him be frizzled in a pan; may the falling sickness rage within him; may he be broken on the wheel and be hanged.

    For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, ... let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying out for mercy, & let there be no surcease until he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails. ... Let the flames of Hell consume him forever.
    — San Pedro monastery, Barcelona

    ... and one a bit older (from Asurbanipal's library in Assyria 650 BCE):

    Clay tablet of Ashurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria, who trusts in Ashur and Ninlil. Your lordship is without equal, Ashur, King of the Gods! Whoever removes [this tablet], writes his name in place of my name, may Ashur and Ninlil, angered and grim, cast him down, erase his name, his seed, in the land.

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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