The Piratical Enlightenment

Adrian Johns

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
The Piratical Enlightenment

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This chapter shows how eighteenth-century German states, as net importers of intellectual property, found that piracy—the free reproduction of books first published by others—could support the Enlightenment ideal of free and open access to knowledge. However, the ensuing debate about the comparative value of a restricted copyright (the English system) and liberal reprinting (German piracy) not only implicates the mediation of Enlightenment (where piracy offers robust circulation of knowledge) but also bears upon what became the most important positive rational for seeing writing as an expression of the self: the idea that the writer is a genius, whose distinct form of thought emerges from a unique self. Ownership in the form of copyright became the primary way of instituting this connection between writing and genius.

Keywords: German states; intellectual property; piracy; knowledge access; copyright; mediation; self; writing; genius

Chapter.  8885 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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