The occult way to copyright
A writer and a fairy were walking through the forest. The tired writer rested on a boulder and began to talk to the fairy about something that had suddenly come to mind.
"I've had enough! Those despicable pirates never stop stealing my books! They upload them to the internet and share them with everyone for free. As if that weren't enough, the law has abandoned me; they've never done anything to help me... I might just be willing to do anything to protect my works right now," the writer exclaimed.
"Have you tried a curse?" the fairy asked.
"Of course. As good an author as you are, you surely recognize the typical 'curse' that appears at the beginning of almost all commercially published books, like yours, and it goes something like this:
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author. Those distributing illegal copies will be pursued legally along with their Internet Service Providers.
The writer was familiar with the quoted paragraph and responded with annoyance:
"Oh! But that has never achieved anything!"
"Exactly," the fairy replied. "You'd have to be extremely naive (or American) to be afraid of such threats or, worse, to think they can have a legal effect. This is the same conclusion that several authors have reached, and therefore, they use stronger, more occult threats."
"You mean, like magic."
"Basically; they use magic to protect their works. As you can imagine, these authors are primarily associated with occult and esoteric works. I'll show you some examples, and you better listen carefully because, due to the nature of what these authors promise, I'm taking a significant risk by quoting them!"
The fairy adjusted her wings and continued:
"The tradition goes way back. Have you read the Bible?" the fairy asked.
"Yes, of course. It's essential in the library of any educated author," said the writer, even though he had only read the books of Genesis, Revelation, and the Gospels.
"Then you'll remember that in Revelation 22:19, the prophet promises us that
if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away their part from the Tree of Life and from the Holy City described in this book.
The writer, satisfied that the fairy quoted a part he had read, said:
"When you said that authors use curses and magic, I thought you were going to tell me something more metaphorical, like hiring hitmen, but it seems you'll be showing me actual, real curses. However, I would say that the biblical example seems more like an attempt by the evangelist to prohibit the editing of his text rather than its copying."
"The author is trying to protect the integrity of his work, just like you want to, isn't that right?"
"Now pay attention to the next example. At the beginning of the second volume of The Egyptian Secrets, a grimoire from 1869, by pseudo-Albertus Magnus we have the following warning to the reader:
Inasmuch as, at this juncture, all looks so gloomy in society, the writer of this expects that no pirate of books will wrongfully seize this work and reprint the same, if such an one does not wish to incur the eternal curse, and even condemnation from such an act. While we recommend it to the protection of God and the Holy Trinity, that they may be watching the same, and set the Angel Michael as watch and guard over the undertaking, so that no pirate may rob the real and legal owner of the means of deriving his daily bread from the sale of this publication, and cheat him of his property by the peril of losing his blessedness, such a being would never find rest nor quiet, by day or night, neither here below nor in the hereafter, by seeking to defraud the publisher of his own. This would God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit grant.
The writer gulped and said:
"Wow, that's a real curse. While the evangelist only invoked God, Albertus dedicated the entire heavens to protect his work. Just where did you read that book?"
"I read it on the digital library Twilit Grotto, maintained by Joseph Peterson, a collector and translator of esoteric material. In fact, he was the one who translated The Secrets into English."
"Fascinating," the writer said, wondering to himself how common it is for fairies to use computers. "I wonder if Peterson, by translating that work and publishing it on his site without asking Albertus for permission, became a target for the curse. If not, then do God and His Heavenly Choir adhere to our definition of public domain?"
"I think Peterson will be alright; surely the meaning of 'reprint' didn't include 'to display on a screen' when pseudo-Albertus was around."
The fairy chuckled mockingly and continued:
"Ironically, in works by Peterson such as The Secrets of Solomon: A Witch's Handbook from the trial records of the Venetian Inquisition (2018) and his version of Grimorium Verum (2023), in which he acted as editor and translator, he quotes pseudo-Albertus and adds a special curse dedicated to the distributors of pirated books:
I thought it fitting in a work such as this to include the negative equivalent of thanks, namely a curse. It should be apparent that coniderable effort and expense went into preparing this book. Unfortunately, copyright violators are daily making such ventures more and more impractical. So I will repeat the words of Pseudo-Albertus [...] I will add that special dishonor belongs to certain evil and loath- some IP trolls, who try to boost their egos by populating their websites with material pilfered from the hard work of others. May the devils continue to punish them until they finally carry them away to hell.
"As a digital copy of his version of the Grimorium Verum is available on Library Genesis, a site populated with material 'stolen from the hard work of others,' it seems that the entire site is cursed because of Peterson," the fairy concluded.
The writer closed his eyes and tilted his head thoughtfully:
"'May the devils continue to punish them,' huh? I could understand it coming from God and the angels, but I didn't know that demons were also interested in protecting our intellectual property."
"It seems it's something they have in common in Heaven and Hell, writer. While it's said that demons are fallen angels, I suppose they weren't expelled from heaven for violating anyone's copyright."
"Anyway," the fairy said, "let me show you two more examples. There's a magic book distributor called Gallery of Magick that, similarly to Peterson, cursed both the distributors of pirated books and those who download or copy them. In their FAQ section, the authors indicate that
We have cursed those who share the books illegally, and all who download illegally. This curse limits your ability to perform magick. Petty theft is the ultimate self-curse. If you steal books that cost a few dollars and then do magick, guess what happens? The magick amplifies the feeling of being a thief. You remain poor! People who steal cannot get magick to work the way it should. That curse on the self is stronger than any curse we could put in place. If you buy the books legally you will rectify this situation."So, they don't put you on trial with God or Satan as their lawyers, but they simply prevent you from practicing magic in general, or at least from their books. Well, since I don't practice magic, that curse doesn't scare me as much as those of Albertus and Peterson."
"Oh, but isn't creating art like what you write a form of magic? Isn't it similar to an alchemy of words? Solve et coagula..."
"Only in a poetic sense, I'm sure."
"Perhaps if you saw your work in a more romantic light, we wouldn't be talking about destroying those who copy it. Spreading knowledge far and wide is a kind of magic too."
"Hah! Don't think I'll fall for that rhetoric. I already told you I don't practice magic."
The writer stood up and resumed his trek. After a while, the fairy spoke again:
"Oh, right. There's one last example I wanted to show you. It's another magic book, The Angels of the 7 Heavens by someone named Ars Aurora. I don't know if it's the most caustic curse in all of literature, but it's the strongest one that comes to mind:
No part of this book may be reproduced or published in any form or by any means without the explicit permission of the author.
"So far, it's quite standard," the writer interrupted.
"I know, but let me continue!" the fairy replied. "The author goes on:
If you have reached this book by purchasing an official copy, or offered at the official and regulated distributor, I bless you of all the celestial forces in this universe, may nothing be lacking to you, and may you have always, all you want, by the divine mercy of the Archangel Tzadkiel, forever and ever, amen. If you have reached this book, by illegal means and unauthorized or unofficial copies, I curse you for the entire moment that you dispose of this copy and information contained here, I curse you for all the angels of destruction and death, and that no ritual in this book has any effect on you and your needs, that all the positive effects on your life be negative, and that you have no peace, until you buy a legal copy and destroy all the illegal copies, this book is protected by this conjuration, and it is effected regardless if you read this passage or not, being present or not, at all times, by the fury of the God of destruction, by the fury of the bloodthirsty angels, so be it, forever and ever, amen.
The writer stopped in his tracks and exclaimed:
"Goodness! God of destruction? Bloodthirsty angels? Despite the devout tone, I feel that the entities the author is invoking wouldn't primarily target an infringer for the sake of protecting intellectual property but rather just to cause harm. I think it's too much."
"You can draw your own conclusions, writer. I must admit that I haven't read that book or any of Gallery of Magick's books, as I've heard they're garbage," the fairy commented.
"Do you think these curses are legitimate? How could an author curse so many pirates and so many copies of their books?"
The fairy adjusted her wings again.
"Well, many say they're not effective. One view is that these authors simply add these grandiose warnings to scare off newcomers and force them to buy their books, even if the content isn't that good. You know: 'if you read this... you're going to die!'"
"It could be! I got goosebumps as I listened to the last one. If I had read it, I would have immediately burned the copy and not investigated the topic further."
"Which is very wise of you, just in case," the fairy said. "A second view is a response to what you asked me: it's not possible to curse so many books or pirates, as the magical energy needed to compose curses is as finite as any other. That is to say, it's possible to effectively curse a single book or a few, but not any mass-produced amount."
"Especially if you include digital copies, abundant as they are! If what you're saying is true, then it might be difficult to curse a PDF," the writer said.
"A computer virus is almost a digital curse, isn't it? Although I don't remember the last time I saw an infected document. Maybe in the '90s," the fairy recalled. "The last thing that comes to mind is that a capable magician can reverse or protect themselves from any evil spell. There are so many texts that contain instructions for purification rituals or making protective talismans, just like those that include curses, after all. Other magicians just ignore them..."
The writer became contemplative, as if he had come up with a good idea.
"So these curses would only affect those who know the least about the subject... which is most people. Alright, I'm convinced. This is the solution to my problem!" the writer concluded.
"Sure, why not," the fairy said.
Satisfied, the writer walked back home.
The fairy entered the writer's office, and he sighed deeply upon seeing her come in.
"I don't think cursing is my thing, after all," the writer said.
"Why not? I thought you had done well designing the curse and incorporating it into the prefaces of your books. In fact, I'm impressed that your publisher allowed it," the fairy replied.
"Yes, but it was too effective and yet too harmless. Now I sell fewer books than before. It became a practical joke to send pirated copies of my books to others just to make bird droppings fall on them."