Cow & Calf Oath

Could someone explain the Cow and Calf Oath to me? It gets a brief mention in Covenants, but I'm not clear on exactly what it means. It sounds like something from an earlier edition, so maybe one of you that's been around for longer than just fifth edition knows?

Covenants 95 explains it pretty well.
The Cow & Calf Oath is the standard agreement when copying a text that the owner, not the recipient, retains the right to decide who else can copy it.
That is, if Covenant A arranges to copy a book from Covenant B, Covenant A cannot then make an arrangement with Covenant C to copy the same text.
This agreement is completely unenforceable but crucial to avoid flooding the market with mid-level Summae. It generally gets written of as 'paradigm' and then used or ignored as the group in question prefers.

I have seen wizards wars declared for less serious issues than violating the Cow & Calf oath. Also, according to Covenants itself (IIRC), this agreement also has some really powerful defenders, like the whole of house tremere, so I would not violate it lightly. Look at it like a OoH version of intellectual property rights.



Cow and Calf Oath?
It's a senseless rule.

That felt like a Monty Python reference... :slight_smile: but Birbin, why do you feel like ithe CaCO is senseless? Or any more senseless than our own (modern) copyright laws, anyway.

Sorry for the duplication...see post below.

Tim, you quoted yourself there :wink:

Great explanation BTW :smiley: I had no idea about the origin of the scottish church coming from there. Sounds GREAT as a story seed, or even a saga background setting!

I can see this same issue dealing with Pralix having to gather 12 magical traditions for his Ordo Miscellanea in order to pay for the breaking of his Oath of Hermes when she put forward the ordo miscellanea. As many traditions as houses in the previous OoH. or as many powerful nonhermetics as the number of hermetics killed in the first battle against davnalleus. Sounds like a fun saga setting to me.


Interesting comment about the enforement mechanism, although with Hermetic magi, I'm not so sure about it's potency. After all, I imagine that few of them get to the end of their life expecting to go to heaven: sin does seem to follow them and their power. Heck, many probably hope that Final Twilight is a "get out of the afterlife free" card.

Oh, I agree: it's far more likely to be taken seriously by people like Tremere and Jerbiton, who are worldly and interested in mortal things, than, say Merinta magi who will head off and be faeries (although faeries have traditions of fair dealings, so perhaps Criamon would be a betyter example if not for their philosophy of right, Tytalus? Yes, they'd just steal stuff... 8)

Just aswell at they would relish the 'challenge' of confronting the culpritt and reposesing it (and maybe even a few reimbursements). :smiley:

P.S.: I also liked the backdrop info very much indeedio!

Like you?

It is senseless because it would change basically the rules of the core rulebook. And would bring a 'copyright feeling' to the world which is strange to it. It also strange from the Bonisagus point of view - spreading the knowledge. I do not care the early Irish law.

Err.... I think you are making an assumption (no copyright in middle ages) that is not necessarily true. The cow and calf oath is historical. If you do not like it, do not use it, but I do not see why it is not good according to the setting. At least I assume that the authors (Timothy, in this case) made some research before making such a strong statement like the existence of this oath.

I do not use a load of things in the setting because I do not like them, but at least I do not challenge their validity before doing some research there :slight_smile:



I second that notion - especially when demeaning statements are given no cause or motivation!

The Cow & Calf may be Irish, but I have the impression that it's a notion found many places in Europe at that time, and that the name was chosen for its qualities, not because it is a singular Irish notion.

And all rules are for you as you like - but the Cow and Calf is even moreso as it is only cited to be enforced in Hibernia and that others contest it.

In what sense? I don't send in negative single liners.

  • It doesn't change the rules in the core rulebook: there are no rules relating to the book trade in the core book.

  • It's not a copyrght, which is an intellectual right, it's a right of the owner of a particular copr of a book. I'll descirbe this in more detail in a reply to Xavi in the same thread.

  • Covenants makes quite clear that the idea of the Cow and Calf Oath is contentious. It is not supported by most of House Bonisagus. As such it's not "strange" from their point of view: polititicclly they oppose it in general, although they have some use of it at Durenmar.

Technically it is true, because when we talk about the Cow and Calf as copyright, we are approximating a modern thing back into a different historical set of ideas. Modern copyright, the idea that an author has the right to determine whpo makes copies, now that's not found in Medieval Europe all that widely. In common law you do find guys suing other guys over things like this, but its rare. The ancient Romans had stoushes about people claiming ot author each other's books, too.

No, with the Cow and Calf, what I'm trying to model, and I'm doing this in a simplified form, is the web of protections that owners of books made for themselves with regard to the copying of books once this became a money-making industry, rather than a religious duty (although there are legal challenges about people wandering off with illict copies of books from religious establishments earlier than this.)

So, to be clear, the Cow and Calf Oath is not historical, in the sense of being an existing thing: it's what I think the Order would come up with, based on historical thing.

In real Medieval Europe, you have this tension in universities and cathedral schools between wanting people to have texts, and wanting to defray the cost of providing texts, and wanting to get money to spend on other things. In each place they strike different balances, so in some univerities, teachers are legally required as a part of their contract of employment to make any and all of their personal books available for loan to students to permit those students to make copies. That's pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. In other places, only stationers have the right to copy the university's books, and they are fined if their copies are bad. These stationers work for the university and pass on profits to the university. Now, to get the huge number of books required the Uni of Paris invented a system, called the piece or "pecia" system, which is detailled in Covenants. An obvious question is, "if you are going to get outsiders to copy the books and make expensive, licit copies for the University, what stops them making cheaper, illict copies? What stops students from one year just selling their copies to students the next year?" There are, again, a variety of answers, and the main one seems to be that you get them to agree not to, and hope God sorts them out.

Bascially, when books become a tradable commodity, then quite quickly, laws spring up to protect not the authors (copyright), but the people who already own copies of the books. The CaCO isn't copyright: it's a licensing right, bascially.

Now, as way of modelling this tension, we simplify it down to the CaCO. Some groups, like Tremere, think it's a good idea, and some groups, like Bonisagus, think its a bad idea.

Just to be clear, I say that it is common in the Order in Hibernia, and known and used patchily within the Order elsewhere. I never say it is used by mundanes. The mundanes have not had a commercial book industry for as long as the magi, and so their laws are, generally, local contractual responses to the problem that the CaCO attempts to resolve for magi.

As a defense for the idea, I put in the Cow and Calf Oath for the following reasons:

  • Books, to be a treasure, have to persist as valuable. If your covenant has the CaCO, and you get a great book, you can trade it over and over again, rather than once. This encourages stories.

  • It gives right to copy as a separate treasure from right to use.

  • It's an obvious idea and it protects plkayer characters who specialise in authoring from having their work ripped off. Well, it at least makes it clear that ripping them off is wrong.

  • I like having political contentions in the Order that allow you to dislike and fight people at a level below "And now I declare War and one of us dies". The CaCO works for me at this level: it allows you to do Criminal Things witrhout having death as the only possible penalty for discovery.

  • You don't have to use it, even if you are in Hibernia, because God enforces it, or not, as he sees fit.

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