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Privilege and Property. Essays on the History of Copyright

Book Cover of 'Privilege and Property', under CC What can and can’t be copied is a matter of law, but also of aesthetics, culture, and economics. The act of copying, and the creation and transaction of rights relating to it, evokes fundamental notions of communication and censorship, of authorship and ownership – of privilege and property.

"Privilege and Property" is a collection of 15 essays for 450 pages, edited by Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently, and available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 License on the Open Book publishers website. [28jul10]

This volume conceives a new history of copyright law that has its roots in a wide range of norms and practices. The essays reach back to the very material world of craftsmanship and mechanical inventions of Renaissance Italy where, in 1469, the German master printer Johannes of Speyer obtained a five-year exclusive privilege to print in Venice and its dominions. Along the intellectual journey that follows, we encounter John Milton who, in his 1644 Areopagitica speech ‘For the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing’, accuses the English parliament of having been deceived by the ‘fraud of some old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookselling’ (i.e. the London Stationers’ Company). Later revisionary essays investigate the regulation of the printing press in the North American colonies as a provincial and somewhat crude version of European precedents, and how, in the revolutionary France of 1789, the subtle balance that the royal decrees had established between the interests of the author, the bookseller, and the public, was shattered by the abolition of the privilege system. Contributions also address the specific evolution of rights associated with the visual and performing arts.

More details on the Open Book publishers page.

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