Best Dissertation Title I Read Today

3 January 2008 at 10:32 am 1 comment

| Peter Klein |

“Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891,” by Eric Anderson (Bowling Green State University, American Culture Studies/History, 2007). Abstract:

How did people think about copyright in the nineteenth century? What did they think it was? What was it for? Was it property? Or something else? How did it function? Who could it benefit? Who might it harm? Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891 addresses questions like these, unpacking the ideas and popular ideologies connected to copyright in the United States during the nineteenth-century.

This era was rife with copyright-related controversy and excitement, including international squabbling, celebrity grandstanding, new technology, corporate exploitation, and ferocious arguments about piracy, reprinting, and the effects of copyright law. Then, as now, copyright was very important to a small group of people (authors and publishers), and slightly important to a much larger group (consumers and readers). However, as this dissertation demonstrates, these larger groups did have definite ideas about copyright, its function, and its purpose, in ways not obvious to the denizens of the legal and authorial realms.

This project draws on methods from both social and cultural history. Primary sources include a broad swath of magazine and newspaper articles, letters, and editorials about various copyright-related controversies. Examining these sources — both mainstream and obscure — illustrates the diversity of thinking about copyright issues during the nineteenth century, and suggests alternative frameworks for considering copyright in other times.

Via Bill Stepp, who says the “study fills a yawning gap in copyright history, and offers a radically different focus on the development of this institution from the dominant legal perspective.” You’ll have to download the searchable PDF to find the meaning of the title.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Classical Liberalism, Entrepreneurship, Institutions.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bill Stepp  |  4 January 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks for bringing Eric Anderson’s work to the attention of your readers Peter. He is in the job market now and hopes to turn his dissertation into a book.
    Speaking of books, Boldrin and Levine expect their book Against Intellectual Monopoly to be out in late spring or early summer from Cambridge.
    Best,

    Bill

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