The Cow and the Calf

My players (and I) are new to ArM, so in launching my saga, I used the library from Semita Errabunda.

Now that they're a bit more familiar with the rules, the recently gauntleted PC magi have spoken disparaginly of their covenant's library. Next session will include the regional Tribunal meeting, which will be held at their covenant, allowing them an opportunity to get involved in the hermetic book trade, potentially expanding their library.

Re-reading the Library chapter of Covenants, I came upon the "Cow and Calf Oath," a Hibernia Tribunal ruling (not yet Grand Tribunal ratified). As an oath, it is an agreement that the purchaser will not sell or give away copies of the book without the sellers permission.

As I read this, I imagined that sellers might not trust the buyer to follow through with the Oath. Not to be too anachronistic, but just as content providers today often embed "Digital Rights Management Software" (DRMS) into their products, distrustful magi might, to prevent unathorized copies of books, enchant them with "Book Rights Management Spell(ware)" :wink:

What spells/effects might they cast/enchant into a book before selling it? What would be legal under the code? Would the legality change if the BRMS was disclosed, perhaps on the first page or by some other means?

I'm running a high fantasy saga where, while most common folk don't know much if anything about them, the order is public and has diplomatic relations with the church and other power groups, set in the Provencal tribunal, so I've got a bit of latitude in terms of regional tribunal rulings and such for wiggle room.

Here are a few of my thoughts about this.

  1. If a spell effect/curse/etc on a book were disclosed before purchase, then the purchasee would have no grounds for complaints later (as long as it did what they were told).

  2. InMe spell to detect 'are you copying this book' continuously, linked as the trigger to whatever effect you wanted might do the job.

  3. Non-Hermetic methods exist to place curses or hexes that persist for a while might be more economical.

  4. Why bother? Putting these effects on a book would either cost vis if they were ritual spells (eg waiting ward plus held spell), or cost both time and vis if they were enchantments. Simply requiring the buyer to swear not to copy the book, with a penalty clause (eg vis fine), with a legal record of this would work if the Tribunal system is working (ie fines, bringing cases to the quaesitors, certamen, etc). If the Tribunal system is failing in your saga (for any reason), the seller would have to exact whatever penalty (eg up to full-scale war) he could manage.

Yeah, I think this would be a rather expensive endeavor...enchanting a book to detect whether someone is copying the book or reading it, and then a subsequently triggered effect to destroy the copy... I'm not sure how many enchantment points a book will hold, either.

While it is certainly possible that someone might create copies of books and then resell them, it's not going to last for a very long time. Eventually it's going to get back to the author that his copies of the books aren't selling, and he's going to find out why. He's then either going to declare Wizard's War or attempt to prosecute. Copying media works nowadays, because the barriers to copying are so low and the ease of avoiding penalties for making copies is so great. I don't think that same conditions in Mythic Europe. Especially when the original author has multiple means to force compliance...and the penalties can be quite large.

Would that count as "scrying?"

Can you suggest a book source for such things? I'm on the way to my local shop, perhaps they'll have a copy for sale.

In my saga, the Tribunal system as currently constructed is arguably slowly breaking down, although some would argue its working just fine. Most magi in my saga are more loyal to themselves, their covenant, and/or their house than to their Tribunal or the Order as a whole.

While the tribunal system, with quasitors bringing cases to Tribunal and, if sucessfully prosecuted, exacting vis fines or more, is working, the wheels of Medieval Hermetic Justice turn very slowly. Up to 7 years is a long time to wait to have your case heard, and an individual determined to skirt or even ignore the code can get away with a lot in that time.

By the time the case is heard, the damage may have already been done, and whatever fines have been incured may pale in comparison to the gains. Thus there is the conflict between traditionalist quasitors and those who wish to see the code (and the order) evolve, perhaps to include regularly or perpetually convening tribunal-courts to hear cases brought by Quasitors with more robust law enforcement powers, including arrest.

I certainly wouldn't see every cheap primer getting any anti-copying treatment. Whether or not vanity texts would receive it obviously depends on the author. Looking at the time and materials invested in making a standard or higher quality book though, and the value that copies of such books can bring, I could certainly see covenants investing in some protection against unathorized copies.

Just like modern drm, there are reasonable arguments about whether or not it is a worthwhile investment or morally right. Certainly, the determined hermetic criminal will find ways to bypass or eliminate whatever protections are placed on a book. But it will make it more difficult, and might make many conclude that it is cheaper, more moral, and/or less legally suspect to simply purchase a legitimate copy.

For my troupe's Bonisagus magus educated at Duremar, who has a wide-eyed idealism that "magical knowledge should be freely shared" all this will likely strike him as a terrible idea. I have no doubt he will get to work developing spells to skirt the copy-restrictions placed upon books, while attempting to stay within the letter, if not the spirit, of regional tribunal rulings on the matter.

And thus will a book-pirate be born... as I said in another post, I've got a soft spot for the (well-placed and non-disruptive) anachronism.

I'm going to refer you to one of your own threads... A special Tribunal can be called...and the barriers are rather low.

So, one must only anger 4 covenants, at a minimum and 12 magi (at a minimum) and have a presiding Quaesitor for the Tribunal. Nothing exists in the Code dictates that the Tribunal must be fair or the "jury" be impartial.

Oh, and this Tribunal ruling is probably ratified at the next normal Tribunal meeting and ratified in the code. So that's when the battle can be revisited and an appeal sought out...

Sure, an emergency tribunal could be called, but that thread was about an infernal plot that would be a high crime, clearly violating the oath, and possibly threatening the Order as a whole. In this case, an agreement has been broken, but not the Oath or a peripheral code ruling

Also, what if the case was brought to tribunal, emergency or otherwise, and some wiley magus sucessfully argued that such restrictions placed on a book constitute a code violation of some sort? Perhaps those who own valuable books would prefer to preserve their value without bringing a case to tribunal that might rule against them?

Laws exist today to punish those who violate a license agreement, with far more robust enforcement, yet content owners continue to be proactive in applying DRM rather than waiting for a violation and then requesting prosecution. I know we're talking about Mythic Europe, not the real modern world, but I don't see why Magi wouldn't similarly try to protect their property rights.

And nothing in human behavior dictates that violators who simply refused to attend this kangaroo court would be obligated to abide by its rulings, pay fines of vis, and refrain from future offenses. If the violator was well prepared and politically influential, they might even attend, and bring enough folks sypathetic to their side, or hold off until a regular meeting, where the matter can be revisited, to provoke an "information shall be free" ruling that would warm the heart of the more libertine Bonisagus Magi while horrifying those, say perhaps Tremere magi, who wish to profit from restrictions placed on the book trade.

"Good God man! Do you really want to risk civil war within the Order over the violation of a restriction on the right to copy your vanity-induced Tractus? Call off this absurd charade of a proper Tribunal. Just accept your losses, and next time, have the good sense to protect your works, if you deem them so valuable."

I don't see a copier being politically well connected. Behavior that is anathema to the Order doesn't normally make one a political power, or at least make them a political power for every long. At the very least, the copyists are likely copying good quality books. That good quality suggests fairly powerful magi.. They then form a coalition to shut the copyist down and send simultaneous declarations of Wizard's War. They have every right to do so, as there is no requirement to declaring Wizard's War beyond observing the formalities. True, one does not make a declaration of Wizard's War lightly and it can create a Civil War possibility, but they didn't start the fight, they're finishing it.

Not if the reader has signed an agreement already, waiving their immunity to this effect (see point 1)

Gruagachan, Witches, Rune Wizards, possibly Learned Magicians and Augustans - I've not looked at them in detail. From Hedge Magic or Rival Magic. Maybe there are others from HoH: Sociatates. Plus magical powers from a purpose-designed magical being (RoP:M). Similarly, faeries might be able to do this.

As I said, this is saga dependent. In most, the civilised route of exacting penalties via Tribunal rulings, or simply declaring Wizard's War will work fine. If this has/or is starting to break down, then magi will not feel secure enough (in my opinion) to share their books/information/resources in this manner anyway - instead of even writing books, let alone enchanting them, they are more likely to be researching combat spells!

In the situation you describe, where the rules still exist but some magi are challenging/breaking them, then the story potential is clear: feuds, Wizard's War, black-listing, punitive actions that might start covert but become more and more overt as the rule of law breaks down, etc.

A magus played by me is still unlikely to spend time/magic on protecting a book. Unless the book were something really special, in which case I wouldn't be letting any copies out! Enchanting a safe room/location to keep my treasures in would be more worthwhile.

Have fun, your saga sounds like it will lead to a lot of interesting stories. Don't be afraid to start a new version of the setting after your players have wrecked this one...or keep going. In one game I've played in, the setting has reached the mid 1600's having started in 1st or 2nd edition Ars Magica. Whole countries and pantheons of gods have been destroyed and re-created, open Hell-Gates have replaced the Vatican, and a mage I played counted as 'moderately talented' when he demonstrated a spell of level 120 with a penetration of over 1400!

Ars is a game of social pressures? Why is your Order slowly breaking down? What's caused it to break down, and what is keeping it together?

If you apply pressure in one spot, you need to ask yourself what kind of pressure will be responding, and how? IMO, copying books without giving credit is going to destabilize the Order faster than anything. It will utterly destroy book trade, which means vis and information will stop moving through the Order, which will bring wars greater than even the Schism. Why isn't the Order interested in tamping down on Cow and Calf violators? Also, consider that this is essentially a contract, the characters are at least agreeing verbally to not make copies, and then they break their word... Who's going to trust them? If they are politically connected as you suggest, then what do they get out of this arrangement? Do they want to create strife and conflict within the Order?

I think I've already explained why and how the Order is "slowly breaking down" in my saga, or fading into irrelevance if you prefer, or just "changing and evolving" as all groups do over time. It may eventually need reform or revolution if it is to survive, but on the surface, everything is fine.

According to covenants, only one remote tribunal has ruled on the cow and calf. I basically agree with everything you say though: violations could have serious consequences for everyone, not just the pirate. Might that be one reason to put magical restrictions on book-copying? Sure, maybe you trust the magus you sell the cow to, but what if he later resells the cow to someone who doesn't follow the rules? The case could become complex and harder to enforce. Even in that case, might the existance of some magical anti-copying mechanism help prove ones claims at Tribunal?

You say that if content creators and legitimate owners are not financially compensated for copies of their work, hermetic society will be destabalized, people will stop sharing their creative works, vis will stop circulating, and civil war will result. Perhaps. My diviners and astrologers concur that this is a likely outcome.

But other voices argue that by freely allowing anyone to copy works, more information will flow throughout the order, wealthier covenants will no longer have a monopolistic hold on information, vis will circulate more freely rather than being sucked up by greedy content owners, and a more vibrant free market of ideas will result.

Why attempt this if you are politically connected? Ask Google. Why attempt this if you are a political outsider? Ask Kim Dotcom of Pirate Bay. Motivations are complex, but I'd say high-minded hubris, short-sighted greed, and even a slightly crazy desire to upend and reorient society could all be factors.

On a more basic level, as an analagous situation, consider that the code protects your sanctum. So, by the arguments presented, there is no need to proactively prepare mundane or magical defenses for your sanctum and lab if the Hermetic Justice System is functioning properly. After all, if anyone violates your sanctum and trashes the place or makes off with your stuff, you can bring the matter to the regional tribunal!

There doesn't need to be a severe breakdown in the social fabric of the order for folks to try to protect themselves against criminals. Books last for a long time, and the oldest ones are sometimes the most valuable . Just because you trust the person you are selling it to doesn't mean you trust their apprentices who will someday inherit the book, etc...

I think your point of view has merit - and after all, if it makes your game more enjoyable for you, that's all the merit that matters! - but I do have a comment about one remark you made:

The problem, in my eyes, is that the supply of information is extremely limited in canon Mythic Europe. It's a big investment of non-self-improvement, non-lab time for someone to write a tractatus or especially a summa, so there needs to be a correspondingly big incentive for them to produce that content. I fear the Order is close enough to the tipping point that even a modest reduction in incentives to write could result in a vast decrease in the number of books written.

Not likely.

  1. It´s a VERY recent way of thinking.
  2. The oath is enforced by the knowledge that if you break it, you have given a bunch of people, possibly a house or a tribunal reason to start wizard war against you. Or worse.
  3. Just as modern copy protection only works against those who doesn´t care, with magic it becomes even worse because getting rid of the protection is easier once you come up with the right spell, a spell which will then be guaranteed to become commonly available one way or another.

A binding oath and contract is far more useful and realistic. Remember that even if the order falls apart, a binding contract is still legal in mundande society as well. And with legal backing(even if passive), a pissed off magi can make life really annoying for the offender.

Well, that may be the canon according to the books, a lot of sagas as playing it as being implicit. Alternatively it is just as easy to make this a formal contract, and not an item of law the Order. In Hibernia, books are written and they may not be copied without the consent (and compensation of the owner), and to me I read Cow and Calf being the law in Hibernia as something to the effect of that being the case for any and all books and does not need a contract to enforce.

I think the book trade is a big part of the economy of the Order. It's possible that it morph into a system where people go to places to study and that you concentrate power with these vast libraries that are tightly held within a covenant. Covenants compete for skilled practitioners and Good Teachers to do writing, and then invite people to come read and study, but not copy. It becomes much more trivial to control copying when your book is on your premises.

I think this is a rather modern interpretation of information not consistent with the setting. Information is to be horded and not given freely. Keep in mind that Bonisagus members are admonished to share their knowledge, but submitting it to the Great Library at Durenmar is certainly sufficient to do that. Do you have Guardians of the Forest, as it lays out how House Bonisagus really handles books. OF course, your saga may be completely different, but I can't wrap my head around a libertine Bonisagus sharing his knowledge freely with everyone.

Again, those behaviors are more modern than the setting would have.

IT's not at all analogous. A magus sanctum is inviolate, meaning he can kill anyone within it, except a Quaesitor duly authorized to investigate. Newbie Flambonis breaks into Badassius Bonisagi's lab in an effort to steal a tome on Corpus, because his corpus stinks. Badassius is a corpus expert, Newbie is not. Badassies begins taking off pieces of Newbie a limb at a time...eventually killing him. Badassius cannot be prosecuted, since Newbie was in his sanctum. The code protects the magus from legal repurcussions. What Badassius Bonisagi doesn't know is that SuperBadassius Flambonis had asked Newbie to do this, SuperBadassius declares Wizard's War...

If I, as a magus, can't sell a book without some surety that the buyer won't just take it to his scriptorium and start making copies, undercutting my price, than I'm not going to make copies, and will instead invite you to come view the book and pay me a fee for the privilege and will closely monitor the situation. Magic doesn't give me that, but a contract that is enforceable does. If you're in breach, you owe me something, and I can pursue legal remedies. Even short of that, I can just declare Wizard's War and make selling copies extremely difficult for you and your operation. I can also advertise your business model and encourage like-minded sodales to join me, especially if it can be demonstrated that they are your victims, too. The offender can get away with this against less powerful magi, but eventually, their greed will exceed their capability and they will honk off a magus who will either pursue legal remedies or take the law into his own hands, as is permitted within the Code.

As our covenant's librarian, I have a few things to say about this.

You can copy our "Arts for dummies" almost freely, if you need them, you're a starting covenant.

If you have a trade of equal or higher value, you can have a copy of one of our intermediate works.

A tractatus can almost always be traded for another one

You can study our L14Q10 corpus book, or one of its copies for Vis in our covenant. If I let this out, the Vis cost to read it would lower.

I bought our L20Q7 Intellego book for a part of my memories, cow&calf. Even if it would not be cow&calf, I can't remember what I lost to get it (it was a twilight episode that was particularly rich in XP, but the memory was that I once knew how the world functioned, and lost it, I sold that memory), and I am sure no-one who did not pay that price is getting their hands on the book. People who even know it exists will be viewed with caution, but some day I will make it known to the world, an reap the Vis its study warrants (in our saga, Mentem, Rego and Intellego books are hard to get)

A couple of thoughts.

The Cow and Calf has not been in place forever, books written before this ruling was put into place presumably can be freely copied.

If a mage buys a copy of a book, copies it for personal use and then resells the copy he purchased while keeping the copy he made, it would be hard to detect that this has occurred. If someone bought a copy of something covered by the Cow and Calf and started making copies to sell, that is going to be easier to detect. If the mage is making the copies himself, he is taking seasons that he could have been refining vis or creating charged items or a myriad of other things that would provide vis, without being at risk of being charged of depriving someone of their magical power. If he sets up a number of mundane scribes which he has taught Magic Theory, he has a large infrastructure that makes it easy to discover. Remember, there are no rules about not having to testify against yourself and a quaesitor can use Frosty Breath of the Spoken Lie when investigating a hermetic crime.

After thinking a bit more, and considering the other replies on this thread, it seems to me that there are actually 2 matters arising from the original query. These matters were linked in the original post, but do not have to be.

  1. making 'free' copies of books and committing 'guerilla info sharing'; and
  2. putting enchantments/etc on books to prevent the above.

As I said in my previous reply, having the first of these in a saga makes for interesting stories as the Order deals/fails to deal with the results of this.

However, I cannot conceive of any situation where any magus would bother to spend time enchanting/putting ritual spells on copies of books he/she were selling. I can see how, if trust has broken down or the legal side can no longer be regarded as valid protection, a magus might protect books he was keeping (probably by making a safe/protected location), or insisting that magi come to his covenant to study (where Aegis keys can be revoked!). Also, if he had a friend (eg a companion-class hedge witch or faerie with the correct powers) who was willing to put curses on books for sale, then it might happen - but not across the Order as a matter of routine.

As a storyguide trying to come up with interesting ways to trap/trick a cheating magus doing illegal copying, then a few protected books might be worthwhile making but I'd want the magus making them to have valid suspicions about who was doing the copying first AND that magus would have to be a bit of a pacifist otherwise it would be much simpler to just use Certamen (using InMe, if possible) or move onto more violent options (Tribunal politics or actual combat).

Just my opinion, ignore it if you wish Humboldtscott and Co.

I think something that might be misunderstood is that no one has yet done this "crime" in play.

Next session (which got postponed a week) will involve the regional tribunal. One of the sideline activities I'll be allowing during this story event is the opportunity to individually or collectively engage in the Hermetic book trade. So I was re-reading the relevant info, and found most of what I needed in covenants.

One thing I noticed (serf's parma, away from my books) is that there is a tone of distrust in the discussion of the trade, such as covenants sending third-parties to verify the the worth of books before buying/trading them.