Honor Among Thieves: How 19th Century American Pirate Publishers Simulated Copyright Protection
21 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2021
Date Written: January 27, 2021
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: Suggested Citation