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The dominant retelling of the history of copyright, from the invention of the printing press through the modern day, provides context into the economic, political, and social factors that influenced copyright law's influence on American culture. This context helps undergraduate authors orient their scholarship within the larger scholarly communications system so that they can more easily understand the terms of their author agreements and how they fit into the larger culture around copyright. However, the traditional retelling of copyright's history neglects the ways in which copyright served to reinforce social inequalities-- most notably the fact that at the time copyright law was enacted in the United States, enslaved people were unable claim the right to copyright-- and therefore ignores the resulting disenfranchisement of black scholarship and culture in the United States.


This presentation was given to undergraduate authors at Gettysburg College who are co-authoring a manuscript with a faculty member in Public Policy via Zoom on June 8, 2020.

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