Paradise Lost or Fantasy Island? The Payment of British Authors in 19th Century America
Posted: 13 Aug 2016 Last revised: 19 Dec 2016
Date Written: August 8, 2016
The payments to British authors by American publishers during the mid-19th century, when the works of British authors lacked American copyright protection, has been presented as evidence that copyright might have little benefit to authors. This paper reexamines the evidence that has been used to support this claim and then presents previously unexamined information on payments to British authors by leading American publishers of the period. The main finding is that payments to British authors were minimal or non-existent prior to the establishment of a no-compete agreement among leading American publishers. Even after implementation of this agreement, many British authors were not paid, and those who were paid received considerably less than they would have received under copyright. Because antitrust disallows such agreements, this 19th natural experiment indicates that the removal of copyright in modern economies would likely eviscerate payments to authors.
Keywords: copyright, publishing, Royal Copyright Commission, cartel, intellectual property
JEL Classification: K11, d23, D43, D40,o34, n8
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation