Skip to main content


News Piracy in Historical Perspective

Thursday Lecture Series

dateNovember 15, 2012 timeThursday, 12:15pm EST location The Heyman Center, Columbia University

The standard narrative of copyright history involves two major assumptions: first, the law expanded over time to cover a greater range of works for longer periods of time; second, as technology advanced, copying became easier, which motivated publishers to seek stronger protection against piracy. But serial publications have followed a very different trajectory than books, and the authorship of news has never fit comfortably into Anglo-American copyright law.

To explain why, Dr. Slauter examined changing attitudes toward the copying of news alongside shifts in its material form. The presentation surveyed developments during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Returning to these periods reveals just how many obstacles—cultural, political, and legal—had to be overcome before news could become a form of private property.