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Copyright, Food, and Metaphor

C.E. Petit of Scrivener’s Error expressed some skepticism to me privately regarding possible connections among copyright and food. Roughly, his thinking is that literal “taste” is so dependent on culture and other local factors that there is little in our experience of food that can be translated into useful thinking — even metaphoric thinking — about art. Here’s most of my reply, which I sent privately but which I think is worth posting:

All cultures eat, and all cultures cook, and all cultures have taste, both literal and metaphoric. I didn’t really make my own point about food in the post, but merely borrowed Gopnik’s point, and he’s borrowing Gigante, who I haven’t read. I posted because I find it interesting to think about copyright and food criticism at the same time. But if I were pressed to make a point, it might be this: whether in the US or elsewhere, copyright discourse is permeated with talk of production and consumption, often in terms that sound much like our talk of producing and consuming food. And copyright discourse, like food discourse, is often metaphoric yet taken for being literal, when the metaphors should be recognized for what they are. Or my point might be this: Much of the current copyright battle is fought nominally on points of principle, when it is really (if surreptitiously) fought on grounds of taste. Or my point might be something different, which I haven’t thought of yet. But I don’t think that the cultural contingency concern deprives the comparison of any value. Authors are no more or less special than cooks and chefs, and their similarities are worth thinking about.