Collingwood on intellectual property in 1938

I’m beginning to realize that my project is not just an inert visual of a historical process but a demonstration of how influence, reinterpretation and plagiarism all contribute to original creative works. Collingwood writes about the dangers of a society spending too much energy keeping creative works separate:

If we look candidly at the history of art, or even the little of it we happen to know, we shall see that collaboration between artists has always been the rule. I refer especially to that kind of collaboration in which one artist grafts his own work upon that of another, or (if you wish to be abusive) plagiarizes another’s for incorporation in his own. A new code of artistic morality grew up in the nineteenth century, according to which plagiarism was a crime. I will not ask how much that had to do, whether as cause or effect, with the artistic barrenness and mediocrity of the age (though it is obvious, I think, that a man who can be annoyed with another for stealing his ideas must be pretty poor in ideas, as well as much less concerned for the intrinsic value of what ideas he has than for his own reputation); I will only say that this fooling about personal property must cease. Let painters and writers and musicians steal with both hands whatever they can use, wherever they can find it. And if any one objects to having his own precious ideas borrowed by others, the remedy is easy. He can keep them to himself by not publishing; and the public will probably have cause to thank him.



One thought on “Collingwood on intellectual property in 1938”

  1. this is great! A wonderful example from the past… ironically I want to know where it’s from… what’s the citation?

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