“International Authorship, Trans-Atlantic Publishing, and the ‘English Tolstoy’”

The Case Western Reserve University Department of English will hold the 2019 Edward S. and Melinda Sadar Lecture in Writing in the Disciplines Friday, Oct. 4, at 3:15 p.m. in Kelvin Smith Library’s Dampeer Room.

Kathy Bowrey, a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, will present the lecture, titled “International Authorship, Trans-Atlantic Publishing, and the ‘English Tolstoy.’”

The event honors the career of retiring Professor of English and Law Martha Woodmansee.

A reception will follow the talk.

The Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts; the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities; Kelvin Smith Library; and the CWRU Department of History will co-sponsor the event.

This year’s event honors the career of Martha Woodmansee, professor emerita of English and law, who retired in June.

About the talk

In the early 20th century, English language publishers became multi-national, with head offices in London and New York servicing branch offices across the major cities of nations of the British Commonwealth. This structure arose from Trans-Atlantic copyright advocacy fronted by a popular Victorian romancer, Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853-1931), who was celebrated in the press as “the English Tolstoy.”

Caine’s campaign centered on promoting the utopian idea of copyright as a natural right on a speaking tour across Canada and America in 1895. Officially, Caine also spoke as representative of the British Society of Authors. Unofficially, he acted on behalf of the British Parliament and Colonial Office, and in consultation with his American publisher, William Appleton, chairman of the American Publishers’ Copyright League.

Caine’s mission was to repress Canadian copyright sovereignty in order to prevent the unraveling of British-American international copyright supremacy secured by the Chace Act of 1891.

This presentation explores why international authorship is imperial by design and the consequences for authors and readers in former colonies, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

About the speaker

Bowrey is a legal historian with broad socio-legal interests. Her research focuses on the laws and practices that inform knowledge creation and the production, distribution, and reception of culture and technology.

Bowrey is co-director of the International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property, established in 2008. Her talk is drawn from a chapter in her forthcoming book, Copyright, Creativity, Big Media & Cultural Value: Historical Answers to Contemporary Questions about Corporate Control (Routledge).