The Grolier Club
Copyright today controls a vast range of created things, from songs to software, fancy dress costumes and semiconductor chip designs; it also provides a neverending income stream to the owners of the rights it creates, who almost always turn out to be corporations. That’s obviously not what copyright was intended to do when it was invented in the 18th century in Acts for the Encouragement of Learning. David Bellos, a Princeton University professor, and coauthor of the new book Who Owns This Sentence? A History of Copyrights and Wrongs (W. W. Norton), will explain how a decision made in the British House of Lords 250 years ago established copyright by imposing strict limits on publishers’ rights—who have spent the last 50 years getting them all back.
David Bellos, Meredith Howland Pyne Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, is a scholar of 19th- and 20th-century French and European literature. He is also a well-known translator from French and the author of major biographies of writers Georges Perec and Romain Gary and filmmaker Jacques Tati. He coauthored Who Owns This Sentence? with Alexandre Montagu.