Literary Copyright Reform in Early Victorian England: The Framing of the 1842 Copyright Act

By Catherine Seville | Go to book overview

5
CRITICS IN THE BOOK TRADE II: PUBLISHING
AND PUBLISHERS

The book trade's reaction to Talfourd's plans was to mount a well-coordinated and effective campaign of opposition. However, different parts of the trade responded in different ways. As has been demonstrated, workers in the printing trades were accustomed to resist threats posed by technology and other changes in practice: their trade organisations were well suited to this task. Their protests against Talfourd's bills were focused on the presentation of large numbers of petitions, as the only feasible way of making their views heard.

The employers in the world of print had more scope for action. Their modes of protest were therefore noticeably more diffuse: letters, articles, pamphlets and private lobbying were all used, in addition to the few carefully judged petitions: volume was of less importance than influence and profile. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurs in the book trade were also under pressure. The rapid expansion in the reading public had disrupted the market, transforming relationships within the trade. Nor had the transition from bookseller to publisher yet been entirely achieved, adding other tensions to economic anxieties. Another aspect of the changing market was the gradual emergence of the profession of authorship, an issue which was never far from the surface in authors' conceptions of copyright, as will be seen in chapter 7. These pressures gradually transformed the book trade's relationship with authors, and provoked new consideration of the worth of literature and of authorship. The reform of copyright law was not therefore a simple matter, cutting as it did across all of these sensitivities.

The arguments put forward by the book trade against copyright extension are in themselves interesting, and will be considered in detail. But the actual mechanism of the campaign in some ways

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