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1796 __ « Was ist ein Buch ? »
Emmanuel (or Immanuel or Immanual) (1724-1804)
Comment : Kant raised the question in 1797 in his Science of Right. His answer distinguished between two natures of any book. On the one hand, a book is an “opus mechanicum”, an product of mechanical art and a material (“körperlich”) object which can be reproduced by anyone who is in the rightful possession of a copy. On the other hand, a book is a discourse addressed to the public by its author or by the publisher who has received a mandate given by the author and who is authorized for speaking in the author’s name. It is the absence of such a “mandatum” who made illegal the unauthorized (i.e. pirated) editions of books printed by publishers who were not entitled by the author to address their writing to the public. (Roger Chartier)
French comment : L’illustre philosophe Emmanuel Kant qui, le premier, a posé dans un petit fascicule (Emmanuel Kant, "Qu’est-ce qu’un livre ?", PUF / Quadrige 1995 (traduction Jocelyn Benoist), page 133) cette question toute simple en apparence, tellement fatidique de nos jours, jugerait-il comme nécessaire ou accessoire la distinction de bon ton, dans certains milieux universitaires, gouvernementaux ou commerciaux, entre la bonne vieille chose imprimée et son pendant numérique prétendu, à l’époque si charnière de l’édition actuelle ? Kant nous apporte une définition très claire de ce que sont les fondements de la métaphysique du Livre idéal et de sa nature ubiquitaire par excellence, hautement transformatrice dans tous les sens de ses diverses matérialisations possibles. Il peut être tout à la fois pur objet manufacturé en série, dont on peut se porter réellement acquéreur d’un exemplaire – et non pas de toute évidence du contenu personnel –, mais alors il ne joue le rôle que d’un support de lecture relatif à une œuvre unique au monde dont l’achèvement a été arrêté une bonne fois pour toutes par le décret ultime de son auteur (« celui qui "parle" au public en son nom propre s’appelle l’"écrivain" »), souverain absolu à ce chapitre. (Gary Gaignon)Qu'est-ce qu'on vend quand on vend un livre ? Dans un article publié en 1785, Immanuel Kant avait discuté du droit d'auteur. Son idée était simple. Certains types de copies relevaient de la piraterie, d'autres non. Mon éditeur fait de nombreuses copies de mon livre et les revend : ce n'est pas un pirate.Mon voisin fait de nombreuses copies de mon livre et les revend : c'est un pirate. Où est la différence ? Selon Kant, les livres impliquent le droit d'interdire à quiconque de les copier ou de les lire en public et ce droit peut être cédé à un éditeur moyennant rémunération. Mais d'où vient ce droit ? Pour Kant, il émane de la nature même du livre qui n'est pas une chose comme les autres. Produire un livre n'est pas la même chose que produire une chaise - à moins que la chaise ne soit signée. Kant se préoccupe de trouver une justification fiable au droit d'auteur parce qu'il se rend compte que la rétribution de paroles et d'idées n'est pas tellement évidente. Car si les idées et les paroles sont des marchandises, ce sont de bien étranges marchandises. (Roberto Casati, "Ce que l'Internet nous a appris sur la vraie nature du livre")
Original excerpt : « A book is a writing which contains a discourse addressed by someone to the public, through visible signs of speech. It is a matter of indifference to the present considerations whether it is written by a pen or imprinted by types, and on few or many pages. He who speaks to the public in his own name is the author. He who addresses the writing to the public in the name of the author is the publisher. When a publisher does this with the permission or authority of the author, the act is in accordance with right, and he is the rightful publisher; but if this is done without such permission or authority, the act is contrary to right, and the publisher is a counterfeiter or unlawful publisher. The whole of a set of copies of the original document is called an edition. The Unauthorized Publishing of Books is Contrary to the Principles of Right, and is Rightly Prohibited. A writing is not an immediate direct presentation of a conception, as is the case, for instance, with an engraving that exhibits a portrait, or a bust or cast by a sculptor. It is a discourse addressed in a particular form to the public; and the author may be said to speak publicly by means of his publisher. The publisher, again, speaks by the aid of the printer as his workman (operarius), yet not in his own name, for otherwise he would be the author, but in the name of the author; and he is only entitled to do so in virtue of a mandate given him to that effect by the author. Now the unauthorized printer and publisher speaks by an assumed authority in his publication; in the name indeed of the author, but without a mandate to that effect (gerit se mandatarium absque mandato). Consequently such an unauthorized publication is a wrong committed upon the authorized and only lawful publisher, as it amounts to a pilfering of the profits which the latter was entitled and able to draw from the use of his proper right (furtum usus). Unauthorized printing and publication of books is, therefore, forbidden.as an act of counterfeit and piracy.on the ground of right. There seems, however, to be an impression that there is a sort of common right to print and publish books; but the slightest reflection must convince any one that this would be a great injustice. The reason of it is found simply in the fact that a book, regarded from one point of view, is an external product of mechanical art (opus mechanicum), that can be imitated by any one who may be in rightful possession of a copy; and it is therefore his by a real right. But, from another point of view, a book is not merely an external thing, but is a discourse of the publisher to the public, and he is only entitled to do this publicly under the mandate of the author (praestatio operae); and this constitutes a personal right. The error underlying the impression referred to, therefore, arises from an interchange and confusion of these two kinds of right in relation to books. » (Translation by W. Hastie)
Source : Kant, Immanuel (1790), “The Science of Right”
Source : Kant, Immanuel (1797), “Metaphysik der Sitten”, in Kant, Gesammelte Schriften, (1902), Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1968, Volume VI, pp. 203-491, and pp. 289-290, English translation as The Science of Right,, § 31, II.
Urls : http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/kant/morals/ch04.htm (last visited ) http://www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/tkannist/E-texts/Kant/Right/ (last visited ) http://www.princeton.edu/csb/conferences/december_2004/papers/Chartier_Paper.doc (last visited ) http://stl.recherche.univ-lille3.fr/sitespersonnels/macherey/Machereylivre.html (last visited )

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