Today’s copyright wars can seem unprecedented. Sparked by the digital revolution that has made copyright—and its violation—a part of everyday life, fights over intellectual property have pitted creators, Hollywood, and governments against consumers, pirates, Silicon Valley, and open-access advocates. But while the digital generation can be forgiven for thinking the dispute between, for example, the publishing industry and Google is completely new, the copyright wars in fact stretch back three centuries—and their history is essential to understanding today’s battles. The Copyright Wars—the first major trans-Atlantic history of copyright from its origins to today—tells this important story.
Peter Baldwin explains why the copyright wars have always been driven by a fundamental tension. Should copyright assure authors and rights holders lasting claims, much like conventional property rights, as in Continental Europe? Or should copyright be primarily concerned with giving consumers cheap and easy access to a shared culture, as in Britain and America? The Copyright Wars describes how the Continental approach triumphed, dramatically increasing the claims of rights holders. The book also tells the widely forgotten story of how America went from being a leading copyright opponent and pirate in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to become the world’s intellectual property policeman in the late twentieth. As it became a net cultural exporter and its content industries saw their advantage in the Continental ideology of strong authors’ rights, the United States reversed position on copyright, weakening its commitment to the ideal of universal enlightenment—a history that reveals that today’s open-access advocates are heirs of a venerable American tradition.
Compelling and wide-ranging, The Copyright Wars is indispensable for understanding a crucial economic, cultural, and political conflict that has reignited in our own time.
Peter Baldwin is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles and Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. His books include The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe Are Alike.
"Baldwin expertly and economically records the major beats of copyright history in the last 300 years in a surprisingly focused, readable narrative. . . . In discussions ranging from the origins of copyright in 18th-century England, through the rise of 'moral rights' in Europe and the transition of the U.S. from global pirate to a net exporter of cultural works in the 19th century, to present day battles over Google Book Search and thorny legislation, such as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Baldwin both illuminates the past and neatly sketches the contours of the battles to come."--Publishers Weekly starred review
"Scholarly but accessible and lucid; essential for students or modern intellectual property law and of much interest to a wide audience of writers, journalists, publishers and 'content creators'."--Kirkus
"From Kant and Fichte to Wikipedia’s protest shutdown and the Swedish Pirate Party, and from international copyright in the Confederacy to moral rights in Fascist Italy, Baldwin offers a riveting historical account of copyright in the Anglo-American and Continental European spheres that becomes an indispensable guide to understanding today’s struggles over copyright and international trade treaties."--Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law School
"Why does current U.S. copyright sentiment accord more with the views of Jack Valenti than of Thomas Jefferson? Understanding the fault lines of copyright in the digital age means returning to the debates of the 1830s, if not to even earlier struggles at the Enlightenment's dawn. Nobody could tell the tale with more consummate skill than does Peter Baldwin in this tour de force of cultural history."--David Nimmer, author of Nimmer on Copyright
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Agon of Author and Audience 1
1. The Battle between Anglo-American Copyright and European Authors' Rights 14
2. From Royal Privilege to Literary Property: A Common Start to Copyright in the Eighteenth Century 53
3. The Ways Part: Copyright and Authors' Rights in the Nineteenth Century 82
4. Continental Drift: Europe Moves from Property to Personality at the Turn of the Century 126
5. The Strange Birth of Moral Rights in Fascist Europe 163
6. The Postwar Apotheosis of Authors' Rights 199
7. America Turns European: The Battle of the Booksellers Redux in the 1990s 262
8. The Rise of the Digital Public: The Copyright Wars Continue in the New Millennium 318
Conclusion: Reclaiming the Spirit of Copyright 383