'Room for One More': The Metaphorics of Physical Space in the Eighteenth-Century Copyright Debate
Law and Literature, vol. 24 (2012), 113-50
43 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2012 Last revised: 1 Nov 2017
Date Written: April 22, 2012
This article focuses on literary texts and writings by copyright polemicists – those arguing for and against stronger copyright protection during the eighteenth century. The metaphor of the text as a tract of land has been cited by other commentators on copyright history, but has not been examined closely. Working through a series of writings on imitation and derivative use, the article shows how the metaphor seemed initially to provide an ideal basis for demanding stronger copyright protection and for policing piracy and derivative uses more aggressively, but turned out, in some writers’ hands, to offer yet another means of portraying the literary marketplace as endlessly expansive. Henry Fielding, in his literary journalism, insisted that there was always “room for one more” even in a crowded marketplace, and he invoked a series of legal doctrines to defend the practice of intercommoning and even poaching on a “neighbour” writer’s land. Far from dictating a particular view of the law, the metaphors of copyright are always capable of being revised and reinterpreted to support the writer’s own perspective.
Keywords: copyright, real estate, eighteenth-century literature
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