The Moral Vernacular of American Copyright Reform

Michael J. Everton

in The Grand Chorus of Complaint

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751785
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896936 | DOI:
The Moral Vernacular of American Copyright Reform

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The nineteenth-century debate over international copyright is usually framed as a battle over law and economics. Many of the antagonists saw the law and economics of intellectual property, however, as subsets of a larger ethical question. And reformers such as Cornelius Mathews, William Gilmore Simms, and Edgar Allan Poe relied on a moral rhetoric that tried to make ethics, rather than custom, law, or economics, the predominant factor in the conduct of American print culture. Chapter 4 argues that these reformers consciously and unconsciously ignored the reality of literary property and fabricated a realm in which moral law was paramount and principle trumped judicial and political imperatives.

Keywords: copyright; reprinting; authorship; publishing; economics; ethics; Cornelius Mathews; Charles Dickens; Edgar Allan Poe; William Gilmore Simms

Chapter.  12886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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