As a result, on January 13, 1535, the French King Francis I signed into law the death penalty by hanging for using a printing press at all. Yes, you read that right: there was a death penalty for making unauthorized copies. The justification for the law, as still readable in the preserved logs from 1535, was to “prevent the spread of misinformation and false news”.
So the gatekeepers of knowledge and culture in 1530, on losing their gatekeeper position over the narrative, didn’t counter with higher-quality reporting, but instead attacked the technology enabling competition, calling it out as spreading misinformation and irresponsible fake reports. Does any of this seem… familiar?The law was a complete fiasco. Once people had learned to read competing reporting, there was no unlearning it. The law was repealed shortly thereafter. England went another route to prevent the success of the printing press by establishing a censorship regime with printing monopolies, known as copyright, but that’s a story for another day.