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Posts Tagged ‘labor unions

Thou Shalt Not…

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.
Beinecke MS 214, Yale University Library

The MPAA continues to issue take-down notices, the RIAA continues to sue civilians, and the Justice Department enlists the Department of State secretly to negotiate a new– and closed– global intellectual property  regime (the ACTA Treaty), but piracy of CDs, DVDs, and books continues, the industry insists, to be a problem.  The problem.

So the media companies who are animating all of this frantic action have taken the extra step of admonishing its customers with “FBI Warnings” at the head of DVDs, on CD jewel cases, and the like…

But, as Carl Pyrdum, a Yale medievalist, writes in Got Medieval, history is discouraging:

Sometimes people come to me and ask, “How did medieval filmmakers protect their DVDs from piracy?” And I tell them that since so few households had DVD players during the thousand or so years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance that it really never became much of an issue.

But this is not to say that the medievals didn’t face problems safeguarding their intellectual property. Indeed, book owners were so worried about theft and damage to their property that they often included what is known as a “book curse” on the inside cover or on the last leaf of their manuscripts [like the one illustrated above], warning away anyone who might do the book some harm. And in this, I submit, they were a lot like modern day Hollywood. For a book curse is essentially the same as that little FBI warning that pops up whenever you try to watch a movie: a toothless text charm included by the media’s maker meant to frighten the foolish. The charm only works if you believe that words are special, potent magic.

Perhaps the example illustrated above could be a model; perhaps the industry could move to something like…

As we update our copies of Handbrake, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), later renamed the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), was formed. The UFWOC was established when two smaller organizations, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), both in the middle of strikes against certain California grape growers, merged and moved under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO.

Before the rise of the UFW, farmworkers made, on average, about ninety cents per hour plus ten cents for each basket of produce they picked– work that many did without such basic necessities such as clean drinking water or portable toilets.  Even then, unfair hiring practices, especially demands for kickbacks, were rampant.   And there was little rest at the end of the day: their living quarters were seldom equipped with indoor plumbing or cooking facilities.

Under the founding leadership of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the UFW brought these issues to the public’s attention.  It won many important benefits for agricultural workers, bringing comprehensive health benefits for farmworkers and their families, rest periods, clean drinking water, and sanitary facilities.

The UFW also has pioneered the fight to protect farmworkers against harmful pesticides– an effort that continues, as California proposes to allow neurotoxin methyl iodide as a pesticide in strawberry fields.

Mexican Farm Worker at Home, Imperial Valley, CA; Dorothea Lange (source: Library of Congress)

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