NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1603 __ Pre-history of copyright
Comment : In the English pre-history of copyright, ownership of property was paramount. In the Elizabethan theatre, authors had almost no rights: the theatre-owner came first, the actor second, and the playwright a poor third. When the great actor Ned Alleyn moved from the Lord Admiral’s Company to Lord Strange’s Men in the 1590s, he was prevented from taking his celebrated Tamburlaine with him not by Marlowe (who had sold the play and was therefore uninvolved) but by the theatre company who owned Tamburlaine as their property. Similarly in 1603 Shakespeare was powerless to prevent second-rate shorthand note-takers from coming into the theatre, copying down their hearing of his Hamlet and then publishing it in the well-named “bad quarto”. The publication of the “good folio”, the play as Shakespeare wrote it, the following year, was principally a definition by his theatre company of their property. For poets the situation was even worse. The publication of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe was done without Shakespeare’s consent and entirely for Thorpe’s profit. Thorpe had acquired fair copies of the sonnets as they theatre company of their property. (David Sutton - International Perspectives on Archival Copyright, 2004)
Source : Sutton, David (2004), “International Perspectives on Archival Copyright“, 15th International Congress on Archives.
Urls : http://www.wien2004.ica.org/imagesUpload/pres_254_SUTTON_C-USA%20ILL%2001.pdf?PHPSESSID=4fd5aa626c09bcdc01c5e4bdb09429a6 (last visited )

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