Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930

By Catherine L. Fisk | Go to book overview

7
The Corporation’s Money Paid
for the Painting; Its Artist Colored It;
Its President Designed It

Inventors and authors have long been imagined to be individual humans because originality and creativity are imagined to be uniquely human attributes. As patent and copyright law came to recognize the validity of corporate intellectual property in the twentieth century, courts and legislators had to reconsider the relation between the creative employee and the corporate employer. In the burgeoning twentieth-century market for intellectual property as consumer goods, firms used the names of individual creators as markers of quality or authenticity to brand their products even as the commercialization of the production of art and books demanded corporate control of intellectual property. As businesses sought intellectual property protection for an increasingly broad and commercialized array of products, particularly in the area of copyright, the legal justifications proffered by their lawyers and accepted by judges for granting copyrights changed from protection of individual artistic expression to protection of corporate investment in producing innovative artifacts of popular culture. Firms insisted upon control of employee talent while demanding intellectual property protection for commercial products that were not “art” or “literature” as defined by the romantic celebrations of individual creativity. Their lawyers reconciled competing imperatives of corporate control and individual artistic expression by developing informal systems for attributing works to employees while insisting that legal rules of express or implied contract gave their clients ever greater control of both the process and products of employee creativity. Authorship

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