Member Rara Avis
You also can't copyright blank verse, Brad. That one falls under patent law and isn't even in the same ballpark any more.
Shakespeare is probably less than a perfect example for either your use or mine, especially if we need to agree on details. Remember, history can't even unequivocally prove his existence. While we know "a" man by that name lived at the proper time and place, many still question whether he was the author of the plays we attribute to him. Personally, I don't agree with the skeptics, but neither can I prove them wrong. If the economy of the Sixteenth century was different than ours today, so too were concepts of record-keeping.
Nonetheless, if we ignore details, I think Shakespeare serves to prove both our points. Mine is simple. Writers and artists of all kind require support, either from the aristocracy/government or the plebeians/public, if they are to be productive. How many of our Members dream about being able to make a decent living from their writing? Not necessarily so they can get rich, but so they can devote themselves full time to writing? If we as a society value what art gives us, if we want it to continue and proliferate, me MUST be willing to pay for it. Take away ownership and this thing we do is harmed, perhaps unto death. Communism failed, remember?
Your point is equally true, but I think far less simple. Yes, Shakespeare borrowed from those who preceded him, and obviously so did Safire. As you say, creation does not exist in a vacuum, and every artist builds on the past. It's impossible to do otherwise. But at what point is a creation original and at what point does it become merely derivative? I don't think that question has any easy answers. Was "West Side Story" a brilliant musical? Or a ripped-off storyline? Did Safire simply compile? Or did he take a few existing aphorisms, add substantially to them while still borrowing the original idea, and perhaps create something greater than the individual parts?
I don't know. Nor am I sure it really matters. Whether you want to shower Safire with accolades for something original or impugn him for too-heavy borrowing, both require that his name remain attached to what he did. Credit and responsibility can't be easily separated. With proper attribution, each person and ultimately the marketplace can give the author exactly what he deserves.
Phaedrus, the Fair Use Doctrine (at least in the US) is less than simple. A poem from a poetry anthology is clearly seen as a literary entity and can not be quoted in its entirety. It can't even be quoted substantially, although the courts have never quite gotten around to actually defining what that means. Each instance is a new battle. I think it's far less clear whether each item in an ordered list exists as a separate entity, and I'm not even sure if the greater part of an ordered list from a full book-length work becomes "too substantial" to quote. From a technical standpoint, then, this post hasn't been removed because it arguably falls within Fair Use (at least as long as credit is given, preferably with a link such as you provided).
But technicalities aside, the REAL reason the post wasn't removed is because I essentially agree with Brad. If you read just a little of what Pulitzer-winner William Safire has written, I think it's fairly clear he probably wouldn't claim authorship of this list, but would admit his role was one of compilation. It's admittedly a judgement call, one I'm not even qualified to make, but still one I'm confident is valid. Safire, I'm sure, would get a huge belly laugh out of my concerns. And I STILL think he deserves to have his name attached to what he has done.