Professor Eva Subotnik Moderates Panel at 19th Century Law & Art Conference

Last week, Professor Eva Subotnik moderated a panel at the interdisciplinary conference, “Images, Copyright, and the Public Domain in the Nineteenth Century,” held at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, near Wilmington, Delaware, in partnership with LARCA (Laboratoire de recherche sur les cultures anglophones), Université Paris Diderot and with the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art.


Eva Subotnik

Professor Subotnik’s panel, “Photographers, the Press, and the Law,” touched on issues she has written about, most recently in her essay The Author Was Not an Author: The Copyright Interests of Photographic Subjects from Wilde to Garcia, 39 Colum. J.L. & Arts 449 (2016) and in her co-authored study of contemporary professional photographers. A full description of the conference follows:

Why did copyright law protect engraved reproductions but not paintings or sculptures for most of the 19th century? As the industrial revolution made images more readily available than ever before, what rights belonged to their creators, purchasers, or publishers? Was it legal or culturally acceptable to reproduce or transform a picture into other forms? Did individuals have ownership in their own likeness? Was photography responsible for the elaboration of our modern legal framework for artistic authorship?

Join historians of material culture, art, law, and literature for a series of focused talks and debates about the relationship between copyright law and the cultural, economic, and technological factors that transformed the pictorial landscape of the 19th century. Copyright policies had, and continue to have, a profound impact on the creation and circulation of creative works. This Winterthur conference invites you to explore a formative moment in the history of law and the visual arts in America.

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