Free Trade in Books — The 1878 Royal Commission on Copyright
61(4) Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, 2014
51 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014 Last revised: 11 May 2017
Date Written: October 1, 2013
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
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