The End of Piracy : Rethinking the History of German Print Piracy in the Early Nineteenth Century
Abstract: This dissertation is an historical study of the German book trade in the early decades of the nineteenth century. In this period, German states passed authorial rights reforms that prompted energetic discussions about the definition of authorship and unauthorized reprinting. What was to count as a new publication? What was authorship? How did it differ from book piracy? By addressing these questions, this dissertation advances two principal arguments. The first deals with the idealist reconceptualization of authorship that took place around 1800. I argue that the spread of idealist authorship helped book merchants market recycled publications as new works and defend their publications against the charge of piracy. My second argument concerns the size of the German reprinting industry. Against the widespread view that print piracy came to an end in the early nineteenth century, I argue that disputes over the definition of unauthorized reprinting made the size of the German reprinting industry a contentious matter.The study consists of three empirical chapters. The first examines reactions to the confederal ban on unauthorized reprinting from 1837, as well as the construction of authorship that philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlob Fichte helped establish around 1800. The second chapter explores the history of the Stuttgart publisher Carl Erhard’s Conversations-Lexikon, a publication that was at the heart of the debates studied here. The third chapter focuses on the Leipzig book fair catalog and efforts to quantify the number of new German books published each year. Attempts to quantify new publications raised pressing questions about the difference between new works and reprints. In the ensuing discussions, disputes over the definition reprinting evolved into disagreements over the prevalence of piracy on the book market. In this regard, the controversies raised over the definition of unauthorized reprinting offer lessons about much more than a particular moment in the history of piracy. Taken together, the three chapters grapple with the power of words to not only describe things and practices, but also to shape our perception of entities such as the market.
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