Free Trade in Books — The 1878 Royal Commission on Copyright

61(4) Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, 2014

King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 2014-22

51 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014 Last revised: 11 May 2017

See all articles by Barbara Lauriat

Barbara Lauriat

King's College London – The Dickson Poon School of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2013

Abstract

The doctrine of free trade dominated Victorian policy discussions for decades — including those about copyright law. But the application of free trade doctrine to copyright policy discussions was not at all straightforward. Professed free trade supporters disagreed profoundly on the question of copyright. Some saw it as an illegitimate restriction on trade, while others viewed it as a mode of enforcing a natural property right. Why did the application of free doctrine to copyright policy result in such widely divergent positions on the proper scope and purpose of copyright law? This article attempts to answer that question, focusing on the 1878 Royal Commission on Copyright as illustrative of the extent to which free trade doctrine failed to guide copyright policy consistently. The complex relationship between free trade and copyright is a powerful example of the extent to which political ideologies are not predictive of individual views on the optimal scope of copyright protection.

Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, legal history, free trade, politics, ideology

Suggested Citation

Lauriat, Barbara, Free Trade in Books — The 1878 Royal Commission on Copyright (October 1, 2013). 61(4) Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, 2014 ; King's College London Law School Research Paper No. 2014-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2411031

Barbara Lauriat (Contact Author)

King's College London – The Dickson Poon School of Law ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
Strand
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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