The introduction to Pimps and Ferrets: Copyright and Culture in the United States, 1831–1891, by Eric Anderson, leads off with a quote from an 1888 issue of Scientific American lamenting that
all postmasters and customs officers throughout the United States are constituted pimps and ferrets for these foreigners
in regard to a proposed copyright law. The full quote (from the May 19, 1888 issue):
The bill in substance provides that […] copyright patents shall be granted to foreigners; they may hold these monopolies for forty-two years; the assigns of foreigners may also obtain copyrights; all postmasters and customs officers throughout the United States are constituted pimps and ferrets for these foreigners; it is made the duty of postmasters to spy out and seize all books going though the mails that infringe the copyrights of foreigners; if an American citizen coming home brings with him a purchased book, it is to be seized on landing unless he can produce the written consent of the man who owns the copyright, signed by two witnesses. Who the said owner may be, in what part of the world he lives, the innocent citizen must find out as best he can, or be despoiled of his property.
I confess that I only skimmed the rest of the dissertation, but I couldn’t pass that quote up; for what it’s worth, the dissertation seemed quite readable, and I recommend it to anybody who happens to be curious about 19th century copyright in the US.
(Via Against Monopoly.)
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