This summer, the Law and Literature Group of the University of Muenster, Germany, hosted the annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (or SHARP) exploring the theme ‘Moving Texts: From Discovery to Delivery’. Copyright history has long fallen within SHARP’s remit and this year’s conference was no exception. As well as a panel entitled ‘Book Piracy’ and two copyright history ‘Research Lab’ workshops for work-in-progress, this year’s programme also included an interdisciplinary roundtable discussion about copyright history as a discipline. Convened by the historian Will Slauter, the roundtable panel comprised the book historian Ian Gadd, the art historians Katie Scott and Stephanie Delamaire, as well as two legal scholars: Oren Bracha and CREATe’s Elena Cooper.
SHARP’s concern with copyright history has previously focussed on books, but the roundtable at this year’s conference broadened the remit of discussion, to consider the relationship not just between copyright history and book history but also copyright history and art history. The roundtable discussion addressed how scholars of different disciplines – law, art history and book history – approach the history of copyright and why they consider it to be important, the similarities and differences between histories of literary and visual copyright subject matter, as well as the potential for future interdisciplinary work.
The inclusion of the visual arts reflects recent developments in copyright history scholarship (already noted on this blog and in CREATe Working paper 2021/3 ‘Copyright History in Review’). Copyright history has until recently been dominated by studies relating to the protection of books and literary works, and it was not until 2018 that the first in-depth and longitudinal accounts of the history of copyright concerning the visual arts were published: the monographs by two of the SHARP panellists (‘Becoming Property’ by Katie Scott and ‘Art and Modern Copyright’ by Elena Cooper). The discussion of the visual arts by the SHARP panel also anticipates the forthcoming publication of an interdisciplinary volume about copyright and the visual arts, edited by two other SHARP roundtable participants Will Slauter and Stephanie Delamaire (‘Circulation and Control: Artistic Culture and Intellectual Property in the Nineteenth Century’, Open-book, forthcoming) which also includes a co-authored essay by two CREATe scholars, Elena Cooper and Marta Iljadica, exploring nineteenth century architectural copyright debates and early forerunners to questions of freedom of panorama.
Those researching copyright history, will be interested in the first of a series of CREATe digital resource events, currently scheduled to take place on-line on 15 December 2021, 5.30pm UK time, at which a new digital copyright history resource – Stationers’ Register On-line – will be launched, together with a new section of Primary Sources on Copyright History (Vatican sources by Jane Ginsburg). Further details and confirmation of these arrangements are to follow this autumn on the CREATe blog.