Monday, January 15, 2007

Cloth Button Past

Techdirt has got a fascinating piece about the 17th Century French button industry. No, really.

Karl T told us about it, and we're telling you about it, because it has an interesting parallel with the modern music industry.

It seems that in 17th Century France, tailors suddenly realised that if they made buttons from cloth, they could do without proper, buttony buttons altogether.

Buttonmakers weren't happy - we don't know if they produced a street theatre featuring the equivalent of Britney Spears (sans culottes, of course) to warn that not using bone buttons was the same as stealing a box of buttons from a shop, but they certainly did some lobbying of the government:

Shortly after the matter of cloth weaving has been disposed of, the button makers guild raises a cry of outrage; the tailors are beginning to make buttons out of cloth, an unheard-of thing. The government, indignant that an innovation should threaten a settled industry, imposes a fine on the cloth-button makers. But the wardens of the button guild are not yet satisfied. They demand the right to search people's homes and wardrobes and fine and even arrest them on the streets if they are seen wearing these subversive goods."

Victimising its own customers, calling for them to be arrested or fined for choosing not to buy their products? We can't be sure if the cloth-makers ever got as far as bringing legal cases against people on the basis that if they have clothes, they're probably using cloth buttons and will settle to keep out of court, but... well, you don't really need us to push the parallels any more, do you?

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