Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pamela: or, Copyright Rewarded?

James R. Alexander, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, has posted Richardson and Copyright, which appeared in Notes and Queries (2012) 59 (2): 219-224. Here is the abstract:
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Samuel Richardson’s Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded (1741) was one of the earliest of the moralizing epistolary novels that became commercially popular with the new reading middle class. It was also subject to widespread literary piracy, published in unauthorized editions, serialized in newspapers and literary magazines, and beset by sequels, satires, and parodies. As such, it became a benchmark for how the new novel form would be treated under law and equity after passage of the Statute of Anne, England’s first copyright law. Tracing Richardson’s efforts to enjoin copyright infringement of Pamela is however not an easy task, as court records are elusive, but publication history and patterns of newspaper advertising allow his one recorded claim in Chancery court to be reconstructed, revealing many of the nuances of early copyright doctrine as it evolved in the mid-18th century.

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