A Short History of Copyright: The Genie of Information by Brian Fitzgerald, Benedict Atkinson

By Brian Fitzgerald, Benedict Atkinson

This booklet tells the tale of ways, over centuries, humans, society and tradition created legislation affecting offer of knowledge. within the 21 century, uniform worldwide copyright legislation are claimed to be integral to the good fortune of leisure, web and different details industries. Do copyright legislation inspire info movement? Many say that copyright legislation restrict dissemination, harming society. within the final three hundred years, industries armed with copyrights managed output and distribution. Now the internet’s disruption of financial styles might extensively reshape details rules. info freedom, a resource of emancipation, may perhaps swap the world.

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Political stability and the expansion of commerce in the unified kingdom stimulated the taste for literature and the production of books. If the booksellers were ordinary merchants, they would have rejoiced in a time of plenty. But like the dispossessed aristocrats of a later era, scheming to reclaim their lost estates, they were obsessed with recovering the magical endowment of perpetual copyright. That this gift had belonged only to the Stationers did not reduce their 26 4 The Eighteenth Century: Liberty and Literary Property: Statutory Copyright enthusiasm.

Copyright statutes in no way uncovered parts of a hypothesized natural law, rather they positively stated all the rights relating to the subject. In Wheaton v. Peters (1834), the Supreme Court accepted the reasoning in Donaldson and declared that a perpetual term could not be inferred from the supposed natural law. 25 23 For representative letters, see Atkinson and Fitzgerald (2011), pp. 245–261. Letter to James Madison, 6 September 1789 (see Atkinson and Fitzgerald 2011). 25 The case concerned the suit of Wheaton, the Supreme Court’s Reporter of Decisions.

They could not purchase the books from any other legitimate suppliers and despite this onerous limitation, their own publishers could only reproduce British books under licence. No such limitation applied in the United States, which exploited to the hilt its policy of copyright isolation. The US refusal to recognize copyright in British works enabled American publishers to plunder the storehouse of recent English literature and sell cheap copies to the increasingly vast American public. US publishers, however, were jealous of their copyrights, and like their British counterparts pressed for the extension of legal rights.

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