The payment to British authors by American publishers during the mid-19th century, when the works of British authors did not have any American copyright protection, is sometimes presented as evidence that authors can be well rewarded without the need of copyright protection. The introduction of this evidence to economists came largely from Arnold Plant’s 1934 critique of copyright, which relied on a UK Royal Commission Report published in 1878. In this paper I examine the evidence put forward in the Royal Commission Report as well as data on payments to British Authors from a leading American publisher during the mid-1800s. The conclusion I reach is that most British authors were not paid by American publishers and the majority of those who were paid received considerably less than they would have received under copyright. Further, a cartel-like agreement among leading American publishers enhanced the payments to British authors beyond what they would have received in a market with modern antitrust laws, thus overstating author payments without copyright.
06 November 2015
'Paradise Lost? The Payment of British Authors in 19th Century America’s Copyright Wilderness' by Stan J. Liebowitz argues