Following the last week’s publication of the working paper Copyright History in Review, CREATe is delighted to present a further working paper about copyright history: a re-print of the introductory chapter of Dr Elena Cooper’s monograph Art and Modern Copyright: The Contested Image (CUP, 2018). Elena has provided this introductory note:
Art and Modern Copyright: The Contested Image is the first in-depth and longitudinal account of the history of copyright relating to the visual arts and concerns the protection of painting, engraving and photography in the UK 1850-1911. Together with the copyright history monographs which I discuss in Copyright History in Review, Art and Modern Copyright can be seen as part of a new wave of recently published scholarship which shifts the focus of copyright history away from its longstanding concern with the protection of books and literary works, to other subject matter (visual arts, drama and news). In the Introduction to Art and Modern Copyright, I argue that art added something new to the making of modern copyright law in the UK – the history of artistic copyright was in many respects distinct from the history of literary copyright – and I provide an overview of the thematic chapters of my book that substantiate that claim: the protection of copyright ‘authors’ (i.e. the claims to protection advanced by painters, photographers and engravers), art collectors, sitters and the public interest. I also make a number of more general claims about the value of copyright history. In particular, rather than looking to history to uncover a point of origin or foundational moment, I draw attention to the value of history as a destabilising influence. In taking us to ways of thinking about copyright that, in some respects, differ starkly from our own and have no authority today or continuity with the present, history can sharpen the critical lens through which we view current copyright debates and lend to us a more flexible way of thinking through legal challenges today.
Art and Modern Copyright was shortlisted by the Society of Legal Scholars for the Birks Book Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship in 2020. Cambridge University Press are offering a 20% discount on the price of this title until 31 May 2021 on purchases via www.cambridge.org using the code ECOOPER2021 (full details on the final page of the Working Paper).
The full paper can be downloaded here.
Dr Cooper launching Art and Modern Copyright at the Victorian Picture Gallery, Royal Holloway, University of London in December 2018. Photographs by Susanna Brunetti.