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Copyright History at the Sorbonne Nouvelle

October 6, 2016 @ 8:00 AM - October 7, 2016 @ 5:00 PM CDT


“Copyright and the Circulation of Knowledge: Industry Practices and
Public Interests in Great Britain from the 18th Century to the

Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris, 6-7 October 2016

New combinations of technology, culture, and business practice are
transforming relationships among authors, publishers, and audiences in
many fields of knowledge, including journalism, science research, and
academia. Self-publishing, open-access, open source, creative commons,
crowd sourcing and copy left: these are a few of the words associated
with recent changes in how knowledge is produced and circulated. While
being celebrated for their potential to democratize knowledge, many of
these changes have been accompanied by heated debates on such
questions as the appropriate role of experts and ‘gatekeepers’; how to
ensure that such projects are both trustworthy and economically
viable; and how best to balance the interests of authors, publishers,
and the general public. Copyright is often at the centre of these

Though the technologies involved have changed dramatically since the
eighteenth century, similar questions were debated in the decades
following the first British copyright statute (1710). Indeed, today’s
discussions of piracy and copyright sometimes echo the
eighteenth-century ‘battle of the booksellers’ that pitted advocates
of a limited-term copyright (and the creation of a public domain)
against proponents of authors’ natural rights over their works. Then
as now, many felt that the law was not always in step with cultural
norms or trade practices. While some denounced all unauthorized
republications as piracies, others experimented with new ways of
disseminating knowledge through translations, abridgements,
compilations (including the first magazines), and cheap reprints.
During the nineteenth century, technological and cultural changes and
the increasingly international market for books led to more debates
over the legitimacy and public utility of various forms of reprinting,
as well as new strategies for combatting piracy.

This conference seeks to bring together specialists of Great Britain
from the eighteenth century to the present to explore the complex
relationship between copyright and the circulation of knowledge. We
welcome case studies that focus on a particular time period as well as
papers that show how attitudes and practices have changed over time.
Papers that bring past and present concerns into dialogue are
especially welcome. Potential topics may include:

–the economics of publishing in a given period or sector, and its
effects on the circulation of knowledge;
–the political, cultural, or philosophical underpinnings of public
access to knowledge;
–the strategies developed by authors or publishers to protect their
intellectual property;
–the perceived boundaries between legitimate and piratical
–the consequences of specific laws or institutional arrangements for
the circulation of knowledge in different domains;
–the use of historical examples in arguments about copyright and the
public domain;
–the different forms of publication developed to republish or
recirculate existing works, whether authorized or not.

Interested scholars should send an abstract of their proposed paper
(200 words) and a short biography-bibliography (100 words) by 15
January 2016. Answers will be given by 15 March 2016.

Proposals should be sent to copyright-conference@univ-paris3.fr

Conference web page:

Emmanuelle Avril – professeur des universités – Université Sorbonne
Nouvelle (CREW/CREC EA 4399)
Louisiane Ferlier – digitization project manager – The Royal Society
Bénédicte Miyamoto – mcf – Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (CREW/CREC EA
Sarah Pickard – mcf – Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (CREW/CREC EA 4399)
Will Slauter – mcf – Université Paris Diderot (LARCA UMR 82254)


October 6, 2016 @ 8:00 AM CDT
October 7, 2016 @ 5:00 PM CDT