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Research Blog Series: Copyright History & Policy

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Research Blog Series: Copyright History & Policy

By 13 April 2018March 16th, 2021No Comments

Elena Cooper discusses her research in the area of Copyright History and Policy, for the Research Blog Series.

Painting by John Linnell

Copyright, History and Policy evidences the diversity of research at CREATe. Led by Elena Cooper, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow, the project explored the relevance of a study of the past, to copyright debates today.

What is the Point of Copyright History?, a CREATe Working Paper (2016/04) edited by Elena Cooper and Ronan Deazley, considers the interplay between copyright policy today and historical research. It provides a record of the discussions at a two-day Copyright History Symposium held at the University of Glasgow in March 2015, comprising a public lecture delivered by copyright historian Tomas Gomez-Arostegui and a roundtable discussion by five leading academics (Howard Abrams, Lionel Bently, Oren Bracha, Mark Rose and Charlotte Waelde) and chaired by Hector MacQueen.

Two original research papers provide specific examples of different aspects of the value of the experience of past times to a study of the present. In Photographic Copyright and the IP Enterprise Court in Historical Perspective (Legal Studies, 2018), Elena Cooper and Sheona Burrow argue that an in-depth case study of the enforcement of copyright in photographs today by freelance professional photographers, is enriched by casting that experience in historical perspective. While noting parallels between past and present, the article argues that a broad historical vantage point also enables us more critically to assess what is different about the nature of photographic copyright enforcement today.

A further paper by Elena Cooper, published in Landmarks on Intellectual Property Law, (Hart Press, ed. J. Bellido, 2017), explores the little considered relation between criminal and civil law in the only House of Lords decision on the criminal law provisions of a current intellectual property statute (R v. Johnstone, 2003), setting that within the context of original historical research into criminalisation from past times. History, this Chapter shows, can also help us to identify more deep-seated roots to problems faced by the law today, that might otherwise escape our notice.

The output for this project was facilitated by a rich scholarly environment, which saw the University of Glasgow host the leading conference in the field: the annual workshop of the International Society for the History and Theory of IP, in summer 2016, drawing scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds from all over the world. It was also furthered by the opportunity to present historical research at two conferences: the British Crime Historians Symposium (Edinburgh, October 2016) and European Policy in IP (Oxford, September 2016). The project also connected with audiences beyond academia. At the CREATe Festival held at the Royal Society of Arts in July 2016, Elena Cooper presented on Copyright and Art Forgery: The Painting that Challenged the Law, examining the intricacies of a nineteenth century ruling about the forgery of a painting by the landscape artist John Linnell. It also invited reflections on copyright history from an interdisciplinary audience (spanning experts in philosophy, education, literature as well as law), at an assembly conducted by the performance artist Kobe Matthys of Agency, Brussels, exploring the facets of a historic copyright decision (summer 2016).

To find out more see the following publications: 

What is the Point of Copyright History?: 

Photographic Copyright and the IP Enterprise Court in Historical Perspective: