How #Article13 is like the Inquisition: John Milton Against the EU #CopyrightDirective

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The Stationers’ Company is a City of London livery company, i.e., a trade guild, not an individual printing house. While only members of the company were allowed to print books, no single printer had a monopoly.

tl,dr: The Stationers’ Company was not a printing house, in the same way that the National Rifle Association is not a gun manufacturer.


In my humble opinion - though I hesitate to correct a historian and an enjoyable novelist - this seems a rather ahistorical simplification and presentation, with a huge missing context, that being the English Civil War (1642-1651.)

The law being discussed here amounted to a reinstatement of previously established pre-censorship, not newly instituting it.

Prior to the English Civil War, under the monarchy, censorship was done by the Star Chamber (which entered the language as a synonym for unfettered secret courts) directly appointed by the King. As one related example: “On 17 October 1632, the Court of Star Chamber banned all “news books” because of complaints from Spanish and Austrian diplomats” Wiki: Star Chamber

After Parliament seized power they abolished the Star Chamber in 1640; within a year there were over 300 news publishers. A few years later (1643) Parliament became appalled and instituted their own act to reintroduce advance censorship, the ‘Licensing Order of 1643’ which required registration of all presses via the Stationers’ Guild and pre-publication licensing.

One vast and destructive Civil War later…

The ‘Licensing Act of 1662’, after the monarchy had been restored, essentially reinstated and combined the two, keeping the registration of presses and mandatory licensing and adding a single official in charge of all censorship. “The provisions as to importation of books, the appointment of licensers, and the number of printers and founders were practically re-enactments of the similar provisions in an order of the Star Chamber of 1637.” And yes, it seems clear these provisions were specifically to ensure nothing critical of the king or government could be published - it effectively limited newspaper publication to the single one approved by the King’s agent.

Surely the actual printers would have been substantially more profitable and happier with the situation if more than a single newspaper had been allowed?

There are plenty of good arguments against Article 13, John Milton’s among them - why drag in questionably historical ones?


The Establishment is not “the set of people who have power”, and it is not “the set of people who hoard advantage for personal gain”. In fact, those sets are often disjoint, or even adversaries.

The Establishment is the framework of institutions, customs and rules that have been found to serve both groups, without the two having to collude directly. It’s elite schools, highbrow fundraisers, political parties, propaganda newspapers – any vehicle that justifies greed politically and justifies power economically.

Prior-restraint censorship is a perfect example of such a vehicle. It serves rentiers because it’s far easier to extract rent on information after it’s published; and it serves the authorities because they can exercise power outside of public scrutiny; and neither group has to acknowledge the other’s interest (which would be “corrupt”).

The fact that it’s objectively wrong is notable by its absence from the discussion. When something is separately desired by both the rich and the powerful, you get to see just how little the interests of the majority of people really matter.


Not exactly, but I do remember seeing a frontispiece to a book of poems by Veronica Franco that she published in 1570s Venice that declared, under papal authority, that anyone who published illicit copies of the book would be excommunicated. I found that to be an interesting precursor to modern ideas of copyright.

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