Rethinking Copyright

Rethinking Copyright

History, Theory, Language

Ronan Deazley

This book provides the reader with a critical insight into the history and theory of copyright within contemporary legal and cultural discourse. It exposes as myth the orthodox history of the development of copyright law in eighteenth-century Britain and explores the way in which that myth became entrenched throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To this historical analysis are added two theoretical approaches to copyright not otherwise found in mainstream contemporary texts. Rethinking Copyright introduces the reader to copyright through the prism of the public domain before turning to the question as to how best to locate copyright within the parameters of traditional property discourse. Moreover, underpinning these various historical and theoretical strands, the book explores the constitutive power of legal writing and the place of rhetoric in framing and determining contemporary copyright policy and discourse.

Introduction

Ronan Deazley

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law

Extract

Having published my first book, On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth-Century Britain, 1695–1775 (On the Origin of the Right to Copy),1 in July 2004, I did what every first author does – I waited nervously for the reviews (if any). The first, by Simon Stokes, appeared in February 2005 in the Entertainment Law Review. Stokes, an intellectual property practitioner and himself an author,2 was generous indeed: ‘persuasively argues’; ‘shed[s] fresh light’; ‘a fascinating work of legal history’, and so on. He finished his review as follows: Whilst Deazley does not directly address the current copyright debate, the reviewer would argue that the development of copyright in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been a steady erosion of the public domain, often justified by the need to protect author’s rights (which rights are increasingly in the hands of the large global media corporations). By piercing some cherished assumptions about copyright and authors’ rights, and in particular through demolishing as a “myth” the traditional view about the development of copyright and displacing the centrality of the modern proprietary author as the raison d’etre of the copyright system, Deazley’s book is welcome ammunition to those who would try to reassert the public domain.3 The review was certainly timely. When it was published I was based in Bournemouth, on a research sabbatical at the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management,4 working on the first rough drafts for this book....