Honor Among Thieves: How 19th Century American Pirate Publishers Simulated Copyright Protection

21 Pages Posted:

Date Written: January 27, 2021

Abstract

From 1790 to 1891, the United States prevented foreign authors from obtaining domestic copyright protection, implicitly subsidizing a domestic reprinting industry. With foreign works a “free” and unprotected resource, American publishers created a system of voluntary norms, known as “trade courtesy” to create and enforce psuedo- property rights in uncopyrighted foreign works, simulating the effects of legal copyright protection. This paper analyzes this system using the Bloomington School’s Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) framework to under- stand its effectiveness, and pitfalls, in managing the commons of unprotected foreign works in 19th Century America.

Keywords: Copyright, intellectual property, economic history

JEL Classification: H41, K29, N40, O34

Suggested Citation

Safner, Ryan, Honor Among Thieves: How 19th Century American Pirate Publishers Simulated Copyright Protection (January 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Ryan Safner (Contact Author)

Hood College ( email )

401 Rosemont Avenue
Frederick, MD 21701
United States

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