‘Art and Modern Copyright’ shortlisted for Peter Birks Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship

Front Cover of the book 'Art and Modern Copyright' by Elena Cooper

We are delighted to report that the monograph Art and Modern Copyright: The Contested Image by CREATe’s Leverhulme Early Career Fellow Elena Cooper has been shortlisted for the Peter Birks Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship, to be awarded by the Society of Legal Scholars later this year. The book, the first in-depth and longitudinal account of the history of copyright relating to the visual arts, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018, and was launched shortly thereafter at the beautiful Victorian Picture Gallery, Royal Holloway, University of London.  

Focussing on the UK in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (1850-1911), an important period in the making of modern copyright, the book explores the ways in which the history of copyright relating to the visual arts (painting, engraving, photography) differs from existing accounts of copyright history concerning the protection of books and literary works. Art and Modern Copyright draws on meticulous original archival work, conducted over the course of a decade, significantly expanding a doctoral thesis supervised by Professor Lionel Bently at the University of Cambridge, which was awarded a Yorke Prize by the Faculty of Law, Cambridge in 2011. As well as exploring the connections between copyright history and the scholarship of art historians, the book reflects on how the past can help us think critically about copyright today.  

The book has been positively reviewed by law and humanities scholars, as well as Lord Justice Richard Arnold (UK Court of Appeal) who concludes that the “prodigious amount of archival research into artistic and legal sources” results in “a significant contribution not only to the history of copyright but also to the history and sociology of art and the history of the second half of the long 19th century more generally” (A Significant Contribution to Copyright History, JIPLP, 2019, 252-254,253). A short film about some aspects of the book, produced by Exhibition on Screen and presented by Dr Cooper at the Victorian Picture Gallery, Royal Holloway, is in progress, and due to the interruptions of the Covid-19 lock-down, is now expected to be launched in 2021.  

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