Mark Rose, Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. Pp. x, 176. $27.50.
Martha Woodmansee, The Author, Art, and the Market: Rereading the History of Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Pp. xv, 200. $29.50.
David Saunders, Authorship and Copyright. New York: Routledge, 1992. Pp. ix, 269. $49.95.
Intellectual property law has at long last become a field of engaged interdisciplinary inquiry. For years taught primarily by practicing lawyers and theorized only by liberal philosophers or scholars of law and economics - and thereby rendered a field of forms and abstractions - the laws of intellectual property have recently attracted scholars concerned with the social contexts of their emergence and the contemporary fields in which they function. The majority of these studies have been historical in emphasis.
What unites the resurgence of historical interest in intellectual property law is the recognition that concepts such as the "author," the "work," the "invention," the "original," the "imitation," and the "copy," do not have self-evident referents. Instead, recent scholarship indicates just how culturally specific and historically contingent such seemingly transparent terms actually are, and how complex the contexts in which they emerged, were contested, and gained legitimacy. For scholars of intellectual property, the greatest challenge of the last five years has been one of contextualization-situating the central terms of intellectual property laws within the worlds of significance in which they attained meaning and the relations of power in which they legitimated forms of authority. This review will consider three recent volumes: the first two engage the complex cultural contexts of copyright law's historical emergence, while the third is a less nuanced survey of the history of copyright and author's rights in five jurisdictions.
Rosemary J. Coombe,
Challenging Paternity: Histories of Copyright,
Yale J.L. & Human.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlh/vol6/iss2/10