Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright

Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently (eds)
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-906924-18-8 £15.95
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-906924-19-5 £29.95
PDF ISBN: 978-1-906924-20-1 £0.00

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What can and can’t be copied is a matter of law, but also of aesthetics, culture, and economics. The act of copying, and the creation and transaction of rights relating to it, evokes fundamental notions of communication and censorship, of authorship and ownershipof privilege and property.

This volume conceives a new history of copyright law that has its roots in a wide range of norms and practices. The essays reach back to the very material world of craftsmanship and mechanical inventions of Renaissance Italy where, in 1469, the German master printer Johannes of Speyer obtained a five-year exclusive privilege to print in Venice and its dominions. Along the intellectual journey that follows, we encounter John Milton who, in 1644 accused the English parliament of having been deceived by the ‘fraud of some old patentees and monopolizers in the trade of bookselling’ (i.e. the London Stationers’ Company).

Later revisionary essays investigate the regulation of the printing press in the North American colonies as a provincial and somewhat crude version of European precedents, and how, in the revolutionary France of 1789, the subtle balance that the royal decrees had established between the interests of the author, the bookseller, and the public, was shattered by the abolition of the privilege system. Some of the essays also address the specific evolution of rights associated with the visual and performing arts.

The volume is a companion to the digital archive Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Privilege and Property is recommended in the Times Higher Education Textbook Guide (November, 2010).

The Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright
Ronan Deazley, Martin Kretschmer and Lionel Bently (eds) | June 2010
xii + 438 | 11 black and white illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781906924188
ISBN Hardback: 9781906924195
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781906924201
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0007
BIC subject codes: LNRC (Copyright law), HBTB (Social & cultural history); BISAC: LAW050010 (LAW / Intellectual Property / Copyright); OCLC Number: 644288794.

The History of Copyright History: Notes from an Emerging Discipline
Martin Kretschmer, with Lionel Bently and Ronan Deazley

1. From Gunpowder to Print: The Common Origins of Copyright and Patent
Joanna Kostylo

2. ‘A Mongrel of Early Modern Copyright’: Scotland in European Perspective
Alastair J. Mann

3. The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright: Areopagitica, the Stationers’ Company, and the Statute of Anne
Mark Rose

4. Early American Printing Privileges. The Ambivalent Origins of Authors’ Copyright in America
Oren Bracha

5. Author and Work in the French Print Privileges System: Some Milestones
Laurent Pfister

6. A Venetian Experiment on Perpetual Copyright
Maurizio Borghi

7. Copyright Formalities and the Reasons for their Decline in Nineteenth Century Europe
Stef van Gompel

8. The Berlin Publisher Friedrich Nicolai and the Reprinting Sections of the Prussian Statute Book of 1794
Friedemann Kawohl

9. Nineteenth Century Controversies Relating to the Protection of Artistic Property in France
Frédéric Rideau

10. Maps, Views and Ornament: Visualising Property in Art and Law: The Case of Pre-modern France
Katie Scott

11. Breaking the Mould? The Radical Nature of the Fine Arts Copyright Bill 1862
Ronan Deazley

12. ‘Neither Bolt nor Chain, Iron Safe nor Private Watchman, Can Prevent the Theft of Words’: The Birth of the Performing Right in Britain
Isabella Alexander

13. The Return of the Commons – Copyright History as a Common Source
Karl-Nikolaus Peifer

14. The Significance of Copyright History for Publishing History and Historians
John Feather

15. Metaphors of Intellectual Property
William St Clair

Ronan Deazley is Professor of Law at Queen's University Belfast. He is the author of On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth Century Britain (1695-1775) (2004) and Rethinking Copyright: History, Theory, Language (2006, 2008).
Martin Kretschmer is Professor of Intellectual Property Law in the School of Law, University of Glasgow, and Director of CREATe, the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy. From 2000-2012 he was Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University (

Lionel Bently is the Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law at the University of Cambridge, and Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, Cambridge. His published works include: The Making of Modern Intellectual Property Law (with Brad Sherman) (1999) and Intellectual Property Law, 3rd ed (2008).

Lionel Bently and Martin Kretschmer are joint project directors of Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900).

Listen again to an event hosted by the British Academy at the Royal Society (27 October 2010) about Creativity and Copyright. Privilege and Property contributor William St Clair is part of the panel discussion. Click here to access the recording.   


William St Clair's The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period is linked, in an online publishing blog, to the current copyright debates and Google's attempted takeover. You can read the post here.


Privilege and Property
is a companion to the digital archive Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Each of these essays is a delight to read, and the book’s varied subject matter makes it a pleasure to dip into. However, the collection as a whole does more than offer scholarly essays on aspects of copyright history. It presents a thoughtful and practical challenge to the grand but imprecise theories of copyright history (‘the romantic author hypothesis’, ‘the copyright bargain’, ‘the public domain’), by putting forward the material on which new narratives for new social conditions may be developed. It offers convincing and concrete proof that copyright history matters.
— Catherine Seville (Cambridge), Library & Information History, Vol 27 (June 2011)

This is a most valuable, sometimes provocative, always interesting contribution to the construction of knowledge of the history of copyright [...] Buy it, read it and copy it to your friends.
— Gunnar Petri (Stockholm), Ufita: Archiv für Urheber- und Medienrecht
(Archive for Copyright and Media Law), Vol 2 (2011)

...extremely rigorous and thoroughly researched, with an impressive apparatus of bibliographical references.
— Brandon High (King's College London), CILIP Rare Books Newsletter (March 2011)
You can read the full review on page 19 here.

[...] I'm intrigued both by the prospect of a good, scholarly read and by the business model on which this title is based. With luck, it should maximise exposure of the contributors to their readers while also capturing a chance to secure some income from reasonable pricing plus a flexible set of options such as only the internet can provide.
Jeremy Phillips, The 1709 Blog (25 June 2010)
Click here for the full post


In the Times Literary Supplement (6 August 2010), Jonathan Bate includes in his article on copyright law, ‘Fair enough?’ a discussion of Privilege and Property.

For further information on the questions Bate asks, about Fair Use and Fair Dealing, please see the Joint Guidelines on Copyright and Academic Research for researchers and publishers in the Humanities and Social Sciences (published by the British Academy and the Publishers Association, April 2008). Click here for the link.
The Guidelines include advice and examples on copyright issues.