A few months of interesting links

For some months I’ve been collecting bits and pieces.  Mostly I have nothing much to add, but they shouldn’t be lost.

Cool 9th century manuscript online as PDF

Via Rick Brannan I learn that a downloadable PDF of the Greek-Latin St Gall 9th century manuscript of Paul’s letters is online and can be downloaded as a single PDF:

Note the link on this page where you can download a PDF of what appears to be the entire Codex Boernerianus. It is beautiful.

And so you can.  It’s at the SLUB in Dresden here, where it has the shelfmark A.145.b.  It also contains Sedulius Scottus, I gather.

Nice to see the interlinear, isn’t it?

Codex Trecensis of Tertullian online

A correspondent advised me that the Codex Trecensis of the works of Tertullian has appeared online in scanned microfilm form at the IRHT.  Rubbish quality, but far better than nothing.  The ms is here.  De Resurrectione Carnis begins on 157r and ends on 194r.  De Baptismo begins on folio 194r and ends on 200v.  De Paenitentia begins on folio 200v.

Saints lives = Christian novels?

A review at BMCR by Elisabeth Schiffer of Stratis Papaioannou, Christian Novels from the ‘Menologion’ of Symeon Metaphrastes. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 45. Harvard University Press, 2017, caught my eye.   This contains 6 lives from Metaphrastes collection.

Even though hagiographical texts are among the most frequently translated Byzantine sources, little effort has been made so far to translate parts of Symeon Metaphrastes’ Menologion. This is primarily due to the generally unfortunate editorial situation of these texts: They are transmitted relatively standardized, but in a vast number of liturgical manuscripts.

In addition to summarizing the status of research on Symeon’s rewriting enterprise, Papaioannou explains in his introduction why he calls the texts in focus “Christian novels.” It is not unproblematic to apply this modern term, as he himself states, but he decided to do so because of the fictionality of these narratives and because of their resemblances to the late antique Greek novel. When saying this, it is important to emphasize—as Papaioannou explicitly does—that these texts of novelistic character were not understood as such by their audience. On the contrary, the Byzantines regarded these texts as relating true stories, written for edification and liturgical purposes (see pp. xiv-xviii).

It’s an interesting review of a neglected area of scholarship where the tools for research – editions and translations – are not available.

Full-text of the Greek Sibylline Oracles online for free

Annette Y Reed broke the story on Twitter: it’s J. Geffcken, Die Oracula Sibyllina, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1902, which has turned up at Archive.org here.   A useful transcription, rather than the original book, is also online here.

All known mss in the Bodleian library – detailed in online catalogue

Ben Albritton on Twitter shares:

This is awesome – “This catalogue provides descriptions of all known Western medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and of medieval manuscripts in selected Oxford colleges (currently Christ Church).” Sharing ICYMI too.

It also has direct links to the for Greek mss!

Where did the Byzantine text of the New Testament come from?

Peter Gurry at the ETC blog asks the question, and suggests that Westcott and Hort are no longer the authorities to consult.

How to respond to politically motivated persecution

Since the election of President Trump I have noted on Twitter a new form of anti-Christian posting.  There has been an endless stream of anti-Christian jeering online, demanding “how dare you support Trump”?  It is surreal to see how people who hate Christians suddenly have become expert theologians on what Jesus would do.  Thankfully a certain Kurt Schlichter writes *Sigh* No, Being A Christian Does Not Require You Meekly Submit To Leftist Tyranny:

Everyone seems to want to tell Christians that they are obligated to give in. There’s always some IPA-loving hipster who writes video game reviews when he’s not sobbing alone in the dark because no one loves him tweeting “Oh, that’s real Christian!” whenever a conservative fights back. I know that when I need theological clarification, I seek out the militant atheist who thinks Christ was a socialist and believes that the Golden Rule is that Christians are never allowed to never offend anyone.

It’s a good article, and sadly necessary in these horribly politicised times.  It’s worth remembering that, were times different, rightists would most certainly adopt the same lofty lecturing tone.

A quote for pastors from St Augustine

Timothy P. Jones posted on twitter:

“If I fail to show concern for the sheep that strays, the sheep who are strong will think it’s nothing but a joke to stray and to become lost. I do desire outward gains–but I’m more concerned with inward losses” (Augustine of Hippo).

Queried as to the source, he wrote:

It’s from Sermon 46 by Augustine–the entire message is an outstanding exposition of what it means to be a shepherd of God’s people…. I translated the above from thisHere’s a good English translation as well.

Artificial Intelligence in the Vatican Archives

I knew it.  It’s alive!!!

Well, not quite.  This is a piece in the Atlantic, Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives: A new project untangles the handwritten texts in one of the world’s largest historical collections:

That said, the VSA [Vatican Secret Archives] isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time.

They’ve found a way around the limitations of OCR by using stroke recognition instead of letter recognition.  They open-sourced the manpower by getting students (who didn’t know Latin) to input sample data, and started getting results.

All early days, but … just imagine if we could really read the contents of our archives!

Kazakhstan abandons Cyrillic for Latin-based alphabet

Via SlashDot I read:

The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant — and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan’s current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population — a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev’s iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it “ugly.” The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes.

The article at SlashDot instinctively opposed a change, which can only benefit every single Kazakhstani, by making a world of literature accessible.  Ataturk did the same, and for the same reason.

Tell Google that a book is in the public domain

Sometimes Google misclassifies books.  But there is a way to tell it that actually the book is public domain.  The Google link is here.  From It’s surprisingly easy to make government records public on Google Books:

While working on a recent story about hate speech spread by telephone in the ’60s and ’70s, I came across an interesting book that had been digitized by Google Books. Unfortunately, while it was a transcript of a Congressional hearing, and therefore should be in the public domain and not subject to copyright, it wasn’t fully accessible through Google’s archive….

But, as it turns out, Google provides a form where anyone can ask that a book scanned as part of Google Books be reviewed to determine if it’s in the public domain. And, despite internet companies sometimes earning a mediocre-at-best reputation for responding to user inquiries about free services, I’m happy to report that Google let me know within a week after filling out the form that the book would now be available for reading and download.

What does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

Back at ETC blog, Peter Gurry discusses this with Greg Lanier here.

Some of the difficulty, one senses, is because the interaction of the divine with an imperfect world is always inherently beyond our ability to understand.  It requires revelation, which is not supplied in this case.

And with that, I think I’ve dealt with a bunch of interesting stories which didn’t deserve a separate post.  Onward!


Josephus in the hands of Sir Roger L’Estrange

Sir Roger L’Estrange is probably mainly remembered today for his activities as a journalist and violent pamphleteer for the court during the reign of Charles II.[1]  As with others of Charles’ partisans, there was a strong element of ingratitude in all this.  L’Estrange had fought for Charles I in the civil war, but had received a pardon in 1653 from Oliver Cromwell, after which he had prospered under the commonwealth.  He was made surveyor of the press by the king in 1662, although the king did not see any reason to pay him a salary.

But how many of us are aware that this controversial figure was also a translator, and produced a translation of the works of Josephus?

A contemporary portrait of Sir Roger L’Estrange.

Yet so it is; the work appeared in 1702.  Even more interestingly, he became involved in a copyright dispute because of it!

The facts may be found in an old article by A.W. Pollard, “Copyright in Josephus”, in The Library 30 (1917), p.173-6.  Curiously Oxford University Press modestly ask for $44 in return for 24 hours access to this 101-year old item, here.

In 1609 a certain Thomas Lodge, “Doctor of Physick”, produced a translation  of The famous and memorable works of Josephus, based on the Latin and French.  This went through a number of editions, and a new edition appeared in 1676, revised against the French translation of Arnauld d’Andilly.

In 1693 a bookseller named Richard Sare advertised a new translation, by none other than Sir Roger L’Estrange.  On the 3rd April a bill appeared, signed by a number of booksellers, threatening legal action!

it being the Resolution of the Proprietors of the present English Copy, to use all lawful Means to vindicate their Right, and recover Satisfaction for the Damages they shall sustain by this New Undertaking; they and their Predecessors having been in just and quiet Possession of the same for near One Hundred Years, and having expended above Eight Hundred Pounds in amending their Translation by a Learned and Ingenious Hand, and in Printing a large Impression newly finish’d, now upon their hands.

Sare issued his own bill the next day, stating his intention to go on with it and disparaging the Lodge translation as “senseless”.

The new edition of Lodge did really exist, and really did appear in 1693, printed by Abel Roper, one of the signatories of the first bill.

The L’Estrange translation did not appear until nine years later, with the preface dated 28th January 1702, only a couple of years before L’Estrange’s death.  By that time the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary had come and gone.  The translator must have seemed like a ghostly figure from another age, as of course he was.

Pollard attributes the delay to bribery.  He points out that the owners of the Lodge translation had already made a substantial investment, even in their own terms, and paying off Sare or L’Estrange would have been worthwhile.  The claim to perpetual copyright in the translation is in keeping with the strange ideas of that age, and indeed was recognised by the old Common Law.  This somewhat vague right was reinforced, as was thought, by an Act of Queen Anne in 1710, giving copyright of 21 years exclusively to the publisher.

But what happened when the Queen Anne act expired?  There was a lawsuit, of course.  The essayist Augustine Birrell in “Authors in Court”[2], whom it is always a pleasure to read, recounts the matter.

These proceedings found their way, as all decent proceedings do, to the House of Lords — farther than which you cannot go, though ever so minded. It was now high time to settle this question, and their lordships accordingly, as was their proud practice in great cases, summoned the judges of the land before their bar, and put to them five carefully-worded questions, all going to the points — what was the old Common Law right, and has it survived the statute? Eleven judges attended, heard the questions, bowed and retired to consider their answers.  On the fifteenth of February, 1774, they reappeared, and it being announced that they differed, instead of being locked up without meat, drink, or firing until they agreed, they were requested to deliver their opinions with their reasons, which they straightway proceeded to do. The result may be stated with tolerable accuracy thus : by ten to one they were of opinion that the old Common Law recognised perpetual copyright. By six to five they were of opinion that the statute of Queen Anne had destroyed this right. The House of Lords adopted the opinion of the majority, reversed the decree of the Court below, and thus Thomson’s Seasonsbecame your Seasons, my Seasons, anybody’s Seasons.

Big money rested on all this.  Thomson the poet had sold his right for three of the Seasons to a certain Millar for a £242.  When Millar died in 1729, after selling the work for more than 40 years, his heirs sold the Seasons to a certain Beckett for £505.  Beckett himself sold the item also for more than 40 years.

All the same, claiming copyright on any English translation of an ancient author required quite a bit of impudence.

What did Sir Roger L’Estrange get for his translation?  For his folio volume of 1,130 pages, he received £300, plus a sixth part of the gross sales, plus 25 ordinary copies and 25 on royal paper.  The ordinary copies were priced at 25s, and the royal paper copies at  45s.  The edition was obviously a success, for a new edition in three volumes was accidentally destroyed in 1712 by a fire in the printer’s office.  There seem to have been reprints well into the 19th century.

I have not been able to locate a copy of L’Estrange’s work online.  It wouldn’t meet modern standards, I am sure.  But the tale is an interesting corner of the history of literature.

  1. [1]A short biography is here.
  2. [2]Res Judicatae, 1892, p.187, Archive.org here.

Is “Happy Birthday” an egregrious example of fraudulent claim of copyright?

Techdirt today have published an article making the extraordinary claim that one of the world’s leading music publishers has fraudulently collected hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for the song, “Happy Birthday”, when – they say – it is in fact out of copyright:

Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain; Demands Warner Pay Back Millions Of License Fees

Happy Birthday remains the most profitable song ever. Every year, it is the song that earns the highest royalty rates, sent to Warner/Chappell Music (which makes millions per year from “licensing” the song).  However, as we’ve been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain. Robert Brauneis did some fantastic work a few years ago laying out why the song’s copyright clearly expired many years ago, even as Warner/Chappell pretends otherwise. …

The issue, as we’ve noted, is that it’s just not cost effective for anyone to actually stand up and challenge Warner Music, who has strong financial incentive to pretend the copyright is still valid. Well, apparently, someone is pissed off enough to try. The creatively named Good Morning to You Productions, a documentary film company planning a film about the song Happy Birthday, has now filed a lawsuit concerning the copyright of Happy Birthday and are seeking to force Warner/Chappell to return the millions of dollars it has collected over the years. That’s going to make this an interesting case.

I don’t pretend to know the rights and wrongs of the case.   The accusation, that Warner’s knew that the song was out of copyright, will take some proving.  What they may well achieve is to show that it is out of copyright.

The main impressions, that I take away from all of this, are two-fold.

Firstly, it is pretty plain that the law is infernally complicated.  How could such a lawsuit be possible, if the law were clear, simple and obvious?  How could there be any doubt, one way or the other?

Secondly, it is also plain that the time-limits on copyright have become absurdly extended.  All those involved in the production of this song are long dead.   I don’t suppose Jack Warner – himself dead – was born when the song was composed.  How is it in the public interest for the rights to exploit a 19th century song to be the property of an unrelated corporation  in the 21st century?

Copyright is not a moral right.  It did not exist for the majority of the history of mankind.  It was found to be in the interest of society that those who turned an idea into a physical product should be able to obtain monetary reward from it.  In consequence, in the 18th century, a copyright of a couple of decades was brought into existence.[1]  Nobody objects to this.  But a whole industry has grown up, subverting the principle in the interests of the publishing industry.

The case will be an interesting one.


Copyright and critical editions – a French court says the text is not copyright

Today I learned via  of a fascinating court case in France, here, (in French).  The question is whether editing a critical text of an ancient author creates a copyright.

The dispute is between two companies, Droz and Garnier.  Garnier placed online the text (without apparatus or commentary) of certain medieval texts, using the text published by Droz.  Droz sued.

The court ruled:

Therefore it appears that the company Libraire Droz has not provided proof that the raw texts used by the society Classiques GN are protected by copyright.  Thus its cases, which are solely based on infringement, must be rejected.

It is worth reading the page, even as translated into English in the Google Translate version, because the points made are interesting and generally relevant.  A work is protected if it is fixed in form (i.e. an idea is not protected) and it is original in character, reflecting the personality of its author.  But the court stated:

However, it should be noted that the law of intellectual property is not meant to include all intellectual or scientific work, but only that based on a creative contribution which arise

This indicates the direction of the court’s thinking.  They are plainly familiar with the fact that one critical edition may differ only slightly from another, and argue that the process of textual criticism, since Lachmann, is largely mechanical.  Specifically copyright does not apply to someone doing a lot of tedious work; only to creative work.

This demonstrates enormous common sense on the part of the court.  Nobody, nobody, when the copyright laws were invented, imagined that stuff like a critical edition of an ancient text was involved.  They were thinking of novels, belles-lettres, poetry, composed by modern figures and sold for money.  They were quite right.

The practical effect, if we say that the raw text of an ancient author, as given in a critical edition, is the copyright of the editor, is to make the text of that ancient author into the property of this or that modern publishing house.   That, frankly, is ridiculous.

Of course the plaintiffs are appealing.  The case has considerable importance.  But I hope that we will get a clear ruling on this.

The commentary in a critical edition may reasonably be copyright.  The apparatus, largely compiled by mechanical methods, seems doubtful to me.  But the raw text … surely the whole point of the edition is NOT to create an original work, but rather to give us Homer, or Origen, or Martial, or Juvenal?

Let’s think of a modern example.  I do not believe that someone should acquire a copyright over my work, enough to allow him to bar access to others, simply because they did some work on my spelling, or fixed some errors from a corrupted hard disk file!  That would be the modern equivalent.  It’s palpably fraudulent.  So why should it be different, simply because the author lived long ago?

Let us raise a glass to the common sense of the French court, and hope that the higher courts are not pressured or bribed by publishing interests.


When interests collide: Elsevier start threatening the scholars who publish with them if they post copies online

An interesting story which hasn’t really reached critical mass was mentioned to me by a correspondent this morning.  Via Wired I read:

Elsevier clamps down on academics posting their own papers online

… Guy Leonard, a research fellow at the University of Exeter, posted a screengrab of the message, which said: “Academia.edu is committed to enabling the transition to a world where there is open access to academic literature. Elsevier takes a different view and is currently upping the ante in its opposition of academics sharing their own papers online.”

Since then, Elsevier has also targeted academics at the University of Calgary who had posted their research papers on publicly accessible university web pages. “In going after the University of Calgary, Elsevier have declared their position as unrepentant enemies of science,” said an outraged palaeontologist Mike Taylor, from Bristol University on his blog.

Taylor also urged people to sign the Cost of Knowledge declaration, a protest by academics against the business practices of Elsevier. So far, more than 14,000 researchers have pledged to refrain from publishing, refereeing or editorial work in Elsevier’s journals. The declaration argues that Elsevier charges “exorbitantly high prices” for subscriptions to individual journals and forces libraries to buy large, expensive bundles.

Techcrunch add (emphasis mine):

Reed Elsevier, which owns many of the most prestigious research journals in the world, has been sending mass research takedown notices to everyone from startups like Academia.edu to individual researchers and universities. They brought in about $1.65 billion in scientific and medical research revenue in the first half of this year, through journals like the Lancet and Cell.

For years, they’ve operated a business model where academics provide their research for free and give journals publishing rights to the final versions of their articles in exchange for distribution in prestigious journals. Sometimes academics have quietly published their research on their own personal web sites or new emerging, social networking platforms like ResearchGate or Academia.edu. They’ve done this without feeling too much blowback from the publisher.

But now Reed Elsevier is cracking down on this…

This is an interesting case.  This is the point of impact, the point where the arrival of the internet has struck academic publishing.  This is the point at which the interests of Elsevier (and indeed many other academic publishers) and the interests of the public are now clearly and diametrically opposed to each other.

The public fund the world of scholarship through taxes or private donations.  The scholars’ careers depend on formal publication.  They give the copyright on their articles to journal publishers like Elsevier in return for the kudos of publication.  Elsevier get scholars to donate their time to run the journals.  Elsevier pay for the output to be printed (not an expensive process) and sell the results to university libraries.  The university libraries are also funded by the public taxes.  But this closed system makes nothing visible to the public.  Most of these articles are read hardly at all by anyone.

In consequence, academics have started to place drafts of their work online.  The collaborative effect of the internet benefits everyone.  Academics get fan mail from non-academics.  People discover each other.  It works for everyone … except Elsevier, who worry that nobody will pay them to publish the stuff in journals.  So they would like to shut it down, unless they can get money from it.

The publishing lobby has the keys to legislators’ tables and wallets, and consequently to their hearts.  In Germany the government has basically acted as the stooge for every kind of stupid and short-sighted greediness by that industry.  In consequence the German internet is virtually useless.  It would be a brave man who could predict that, in the USA, the ruling class will rise above such bribes and promote the public interest.  They have shown no urge to restrain the ever-extending term of copyright.

But at the same time, we have come at last to the crossroads.  Elsevier is now unnecessary.  It really is.  All that is needed is for the academics who do the work of editing journals to move away.  Printing can be done easily on Lulu.com, if need be.  The public interest is now served definitely by getting rid of the academic publishers.

A little bit of social engineering is required here.  The skills of a politician are what is needed.

Of course if we got rid of Elsevier, the cost of running universities would fall.  Budgets could be cut.

That sounds like something that could be sold to politicians in the current climate.


Rather than ruin all the library books with photocopying…

To the local library, to collect a copy of the English translation of a Byzantine text.  The volume was a substantial hardback, with the library plate of the John Rylands Library in Manchester.  Inside the book at various points was an old train ticket fromWigan, and two trading cards from some exhibition in 2007, all presumably used as book marks.

But what struck me most was the condition of the binding.  It was very loose.

This book, to my trained eye, has been on the photocopier.  Not once, or twice, but dozens of times.  In each case the copy has been made by someone anxious that it should lie flat and thereby fit two pages onto one A4 sheet.  This saves money, but more importantly reduces the number of times the book has to be lifted and moved.  Anyone who has copied a book will know very well how the arms ache after a while!

The result is that the book is barely holding together.  Which is a shame.

Of course I intend to run the book through my scanner too.  I’ve paid a non-trivial sum to borrow it; the British lending library service now being corrupted by the greed of local councils — Suffolk, in my case — who levy “fees” under one pretext or another.  I only have the loan for a few weeks.  But I may need to consult it in future.

Which leads me to wonder … rather than dozens of people all copying the same book again and again and again … isn’t there a better way?

Wouldn’t it be better, for the book and the users, to copy it once, create a PDF, and make that available instead?  And save us all the effort of making one every time, and the book the injury of repeated copying?

In a sane world, this is what would happen.  You’d borrow the book, and get the book for a time and the PDF for good.  Some adjustment of rights and copyrights would be necessary, but it could be done.

The greedier kind of library official would try to loan you the PDF for a short time also; using something like Adobe Reader.  Which would defeat the object, of course, and would ensure that photocopying would resume.  I mention this possibility only because I can imagine it.

But really … wouldn’t it make much more sense to recognise that the library books of Britain are being copied into non-existence, and address the evident need?


Making money from my efforts; but do I care?

A Google search for Pionius reminded me that, back in 2006, I had scanned the late Life of Polycarp by ps.Pionius — it is probably 4th century — and added it to my collection here.

What I did not expect was to find the same item for sale on Amazon, here and here, added in April 2010.  The US item is $1.17; the UK one has a price of £0.77.  The item has been converted into a Kindle-format piece.  I wasn’t able to work out who created these.

This doesn’t happen very much, but it always rocks you, slightly.  I scan and upload material to make it freely available.  Somebody here is making money from it instead.

Some people would be very angry about this.  If anyone should profit, goes the argument, it should be the person who did the legwork.  “The worker is worthy of his hire” and similar verses of scripture come to mind.  To sell what is freely available to the unwary is deception.

Perhaps so.  It does feel a little weird.  But …

I have no time or interest in converting materials into formats like Kindle and the like.  The tiny revenues — they must be tiny, I think — wouldn’t compensate me for the time taken away from more useful tasks.  And it does mean that copies of these translations get into the hands of people who otherwise might never read them.

I have always remembered with gratitude coming across the digitisation at the CCEL of the 38-volume Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, back in 1997, and realising that it was free, and that I could do anything I liked with it, by way of creating derivative works and so on.  It was an extraordinarily liberating feeling.

This was a feeling I hoped to preserve, when I created the Additional Fathers collection.  Let the texts reach the widest possible audience.  No purpose would be solved by claiming copyright.  No significant sum of money would reach me, from such a claim.

In consequence I always state explicitly that these materials are public domain: and these days I clarify, that this means anyone may make any use they like of it, personal, educational and, importantly, commercial.  No teacher who decides to produce a textbook need fear a lawsuit.  No-one who would like to add them to some CDROM need omit them for fear of “rights” issues.  Let them circulate!

I don’t quarrel with those scanners who feel differently.  It really is quite an odd feeling seeing others selling your work!  But it suits my objective in digitising — and in commissioning translations — that the results should have the widest possible circulation.


Vintage worship tapes and other memories

Yesterday I encountered vintageworshiptapes.com, a site which is:

A project to preserve classic worship music from the golden era of Harvestime worship music.

Awake, O Zion!

I should explain that in the late 70’s and early 80’s, there were a series of annual bible weeks held at showgrounds in the United Kingdom as part of the Restoration movement.  Dales Week, which I twice went to, was in Harrogate.  There was also Downs Week in the south of England.  I think the New Frontiers week in Stafford is more or less the successor of these, although I could be wrong.

The worship was recorded, and cassette tapes could be purchased.  I’m not sure if I ever actually bought any of the tapes, but I did buy the Songs of Victory songbook, which I still have somewhere.

The tapes themselves were played endlessly by people that I knew who were involved in the movement.  I can hear some of those songs as I write, for they are embedded deep in my mind.

These tapes should be preserved.  They are part of the musical history of the charismatic movement in the United Kingdom.  Yet they never existed other than on cassette tape, and I imagine most of the copies have deteriorated by now.

The site owner has digitised what he has into MP3 format.  The results are pretty clean and clear, but somehow less impressive than in my memory.

What is needed, of course, is a remaster based on the master tapes.  But the Harvestime organisation has long since disbanded.  I wonder where the master tapes are?  I wonder who even knows about these things any more?

The site owner has been deterred from distributing the files because he is quite unable to determine who, if anyone, he needs to ask for permission to do so.  At the time the idea of copyright in recordings of Christian worship was ridiculous — that much I remember myself — and the idea of licensing the use of new songs only appeared during the 80’s, as a response to the difficulties that congregations had in precisely this problem.

Yet these things should be online.  There’s no money in this.  But there are people out there who would like to hear these memories of their youth again.


From my diary

I spent some time today reading the online French translations[1] of the poems of Sidonius Apollinaris.  I was very struck by the way that the poet appeals repeatedly to the works of the early empire, to Horace and Sallust and Varro and Tacitus.  I saw no mention of any later writers, indeed.

This evening I found myself wondering whether the Loeb edition and translation, Sidonius. Poems and letters, tr. W. B. Anderson, Harvard, 1936, was actually out of copyright in the USA.  (Anderson died in 1959, I learn, so his work won’t come out of copyright in the European Union until 2029, by which time most of us will doubtless be dead).  I suspect that it is.  Copyright at that period was for 28 years, and could be renewed for a further 28 years.  But I found no evidence that it had been renewed.

The situation is complicated, for works between 1923 and 1964, by the “copyright restoration” for foreign works that followed the US signing of the Berne convention in 1994.  A fascinating paper by Peter B. Hirtle[2] discusses this subject, and makes the following, startling statements:

It has long been assumed that most of the works published from 1923 to 1964 in the US are currently in the public domain. Both non-profit and commercial digital libraries have dreamed of making this material available. Most programs have recognized as well that the restoration of US copyright in foreign works in 1996 has made it impossible for them to offer to the public the full text of most foreign works. What has been overlooked up to now is the difficulty that copyright restoration has created for anyone trying to determine if a work published in the United States is still protected by copyright. …

This paper has demonstrated that it is almost impossible to determine with certainty whether a work published from 1923 through 1963 in the US is in the public domain because of copyright restoration of foreign works.

What idiots our politicians are!  What knaves the publishing lobbyists must be, to cause so much nuisance for so little gain for anyone, including themselves!

All the same, I tentatively conclude, after reading Hirtle’s paper carefully, that Anderson’s translation of the poems of Sidonius Apollinaris is indeed now in the public domain in the USA.

I have also been reading a paper discussing whether Sidonius actually criticises Majorian, in carmen 5, the Panegyric for Majorian.[3].  There is a long section in the panegyric in which a polemic against Majorian is placed in the mouth of Pelagia, wife of the deceased Aetius.  Perhaps this does reflect the nervousness of the Gallo-Roman supporters of the unfortunate emperor Avitus towards the military newcomer Majorian.  Desperate times, suspicion everywhere, harsh punishments for speaking the wrong thing, supporting the wrong candidate for the throne, while the empire fell apart … such times make men adopt whatever shifts they can.

Does it matter now?  Well, only inasmuch as parallels might be drawn for later history.  The assassination of Majorian in 461 by his own prime minister, the sinister Ricimer, made the fate of Gaul — to become France — certain.  The western empire itself had only fifteen more years to live.  And Majorian himself lives now only in the portrait drawn of him by Sidonius, partly in the panegyric, but more in the letters.

Yet … Majorian does indeed live in that portrait.  He failed to save the Roman state.  Probably no-one could have done so at that stage.

Yet, because of the words of Sidonius, we, fifteen centuries later, are discussing him.

UPDATE (20/7/2012): I find that vol. 1 of the Loeb, which includes all the poems, is in fact online at Archive.org, here.

  1. [1]At remacle.org.
  2. [2]Peter B. Hirtle, Copyright Renewal, Copyright Restoration, and the Difficulty of Determining Copyright Status, D-Lib Magazine 14.7/8, 2008. Online here.
  3. [3]Philip Rousseau, Sidonius and Majorian: The Censure in “Carmen” V, Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, Bd. 49, H. 2 (2nd Qtr., 2000), pp. 251-257. JSTOR url: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4436579

Britain will not contribute to the internet – copyright suicide proposed

A curious report on the BBC today, indicating that the British government is pretty much owned by the music and book publishing industries.

Under the plans users suspected of accessing or uploading illegally copied files will be sent letters from their internet service provider (ISP), delivered at least one month apart, informing them they are suspected of copyright infringement.

Accused users who wish to appeal against the claims outlined in any letter must pay £20 to do so, but the revised code says only grounds specified in the act will be considered.

‘”Innocent until proven guilty”?  What’s that?’

It is already hard to think of any site based in Britain that is widely used.  Nearly all the major internet sites are US-hosted.  Every internet start-up is a US firm, it sometimes seems.  Looking at this proposal, who’d be a British internet user?  Every one of them will soon be in breach of the law. 

Likewise who on earth would create a website?  Or a blog?  Sooner or later, the copyright trolls would come after them.  Who but major publishers will be able even to discover whether they are conforming to the ever-more aggressive copyright laws?  Am I in breach of copyright, for quoting the snippet above?  Well, I don’t know!

Britain, it seems, it committing copyright suicide. 

This proposal is one that could only be made by an industry utterly confident that it owns the government.  It’s about as extreme as it gets.  Do British internet users get no voice in their own country?  Well, one can only infer that apparently not. 

I have several times remarked on how there is little material worth reading in German on the web, and all of that is in older publications hosted in the US.  This is because German laws have handed far too much power to publishers, and they send threatening letters in just this way to bloggers and websites.

It seems that the Europeans just do not ‘get’ the internet.  In search of the last possible sniff of money, they have just condemned their continent to irrelevance, and volunteered for competitive disadvantage. 

I hope they enjoy learning Chinese.  Because, shooting themselves in the foot like this, they’re going to have to.