Censorship and Intimidation

This morning there is lots of bad news. There always is! In Washington a Google executive has put Spain in horrendous company in testimony before Congress: Spain as a country that exercises censorship by blocking certain blogger.com ip addresses. In 2007 a Spanish judge ordered blocked two blogs that were calling for a boycott of Catalan products, and in particular Cava, Cataluña's most famous export. I thought, wait, surely they got it wrong. How could they possibly lump Spain with China and Iran? A Google representative in Spain clarified that it was an isolated incident and that they have "no issue" with freedom of expression in Spain. (Then why include Spain on that list??!!!) But the damage is done, it's on the record, and someone in the Spanish Foreign Ministry didn't do their job. I'll get back to this case, which goes back to 2007, soon, because I still don't understand the details. (If it's as straight forward as it seems to be, and the judicial order is still active, then Spain has a BIG problem.)
Also in Spain: the little village of Zalamea, famous for being the locale of one of the most famous plays of Spain's Golden Age theatre, The Mayor of Zalamea, has refused to pay copyright for its annual festival in which over 500 (Five hundred!!!) locals perform the play in village's main square. Coyright on a 17th century text? Of course not. The author's rights go to poet Francisco Brines (the great writer who is the subject of my doctoral thesis), who back in the early nineties adapted the text for the national theater company. In spite of Brines ceding the rights gratis, Spain's authors' and artistic creators' association (SGAE) continued demanding their canon. They say they have no documentation of Brines' concession. The SGAE is, of course, being made to look quite ridiculous, and it's funny how this dispute mirrors wonderfully the very theme of the play: popular revolt against an abusive authority. More interesting, and uncommented in the press, is the question of copyright in artistic adaptations. I'm familiar with the text and Brines' adaptation is quite subtle. It's limited to isolated lexical changes that modernize the Spanish and "lessen" the consonant end rhymes so that the dialogue is easier for a modern ear. Does Brines have a legitimate copyright? Perhaps yes, but I would argue that by undoing just a handful of Brines' changes the work would revert to the public domain. How few? There the question becomes quite interesting. I don't have the answer.
Intimidation is bad behavior, but sometimes we have to put up with it. The trick is to put up with it while not giving in to it. Never give in. And intimidation won't work if we don't give in. The more we resist the more it goes away. And that's the story of Zalamea. (Above, a scene from the village's production of "their" play.

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