From private to public: Reexamining the technological basis for copyright

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This article calls into question the technologically determinist view that the invention of the printing press inevitably led to the development of copyright. The rise of the merchant class and the Reformation created a political environment favorable to protectionist trade measures such as the early printing privileges. Later, as public sentiment turned against the printing monopolies created by these privileges, the first copyright law was passed to limit the power of publishers and eliminate the private administration of copyright. Policy makers need to understand the historical circumstances surrounding the origins of copyright rather than be swayed by the technologically determinist rhetoric that frames the current debate. Copyright owners are now using technology and changes in the law to expand their control over content and privatize copyright once more.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-433
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Communication
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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