This may be of interest to the QCO crowd. Eric Anderson has put his dissertation, "Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891" online under a Creative Commons license. I notice he's at Bowling Green University, home of the Browne Popular Culture Library, an amazing repository of American popular culture (post 1876). If you ever find yourselves in Western OH, do take a trip to the library!
Title: Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891
Author: Anderson, Eric
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Bowling Green State University, American Culture Studies/History, 2007.
Advisor: Philip G Terrie
How did people think about copyright in the nineteenth century? What did they think it was? What was it for? Was it property? Or something else? How did it function? Who could it benefit? Who might it harm? Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831-1891addresses questions like these, unpacking the ideas and popular ideologies connected to copyright in the United States during the nineteenth-century.
This era was rife with copyright-related controversy and excitement, including international squabbling, celebrity grandstanding, new technology, corporate exploitation, and ferocious arguments about piracy, reprinting, and the effects of copyright law. Then, as now, copyright was very important to a small group of people (authors and publishers), and slightly important to a much larger group (consumers and readers). However, as this dissertation demonstrates, these larger groups did have definite ideas about copyright, its function, and its purpose, in ways not obvious to the denizens of the legal and authorial realms.
This project draws on methods from both social and cultural history. Primary sources include a broad swath of magazine and newspaper articles, letters, and editorials about various copyright-related controversies. Examining these sources – both mainstream and obscure – illustrates the diversity of thinking about copyright issues during the nineteenth century, and suggests alternative frameworks for considering copyright in other times.