The general aim of this dissertation is to contribute to the critical understanding of copyright by exploring its historical roots and its formative period. This is done by narrating the story of the origins, break-through and codification of author’s rights in the 16th, 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. A general background, describing the evolution before the triumph of the printing-press, is given in the Prologue. The subsequent developments in Venice, England, France, Germany and Sweden are then related in sequence and juxtaposed. General conclusions concerning patterns and meaning are given in the first, introductory chapter.
Restricted market opportunities and increasing pressure from censorship precluded the emergence of legal protection against copying in the manuscript era. The general attitude of esteem for authorship was never transformed into positive legal measures until the advent of printing gave reprinting an economic value.
Reprinting created a need within the fledgling printing industry which coincided with printing’s challenge to censorship. The outcome was an iron triangle between printers, state and church. The printers and their organisations quickly became devoted instruments of censorship in exchange for exclusive privileges and protection from outside competition.
In Venice, where the printing privilege originated and matured, the triangle system prevailed until the end of the Republic and prevented the emergence of rights anchored to the author.
When discretionary privileges in general were rescinded in England 1624 with the Statute of Monopolies, printing privileges survived because of their close connection with censorship. When censorship was abolished 1694 in the wake of the ascendancy of Parliament and bipartisanship, the author came of age and became fully responsible for his works. Responsibility entailed rights, and authors were duly given legal protection against reprinting 1710 in the Act of 8 Anne, modelled on the Statute of Monopolies.
The same sequence of events, in compressed form, reappeared in France 1788-93, and, in an even more concentrated fashion, in Sweden 1809-10. In Germany, on the verge of following suite in 1814-19, re-introduction of censorship delayed the maturity of author’s rights until the preliminaries to the eventful year of 1848.
The break-through of author’s rights was thus intimately linked to the abolition of censorship. Based on Lockian conceptions of proprietorship, the lengthy campaigns of publishers in England, France and Germany never attained their goal, a perpetual literary property, transferable from the author to the publisher. The rational natural right argumentation succumbed to positive legislative measures in line with the Roman Law concept of justified privilegia and pernicious monopolia. Author’s rights became limited in time as a result of weighing the interest of public access against the need for incitement for writing and producing works of the mind. Their meaning was, and remains, the emancipation of the author.
2008. , 368 p.