Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain

( 1 )


The names of James Joyce and Ezra Pound ring out in the annals of literary modernism, but few recognize the name of Samuel Roth. A brash, business-savvy entrepreneur, Roth made a name--and a profit--for himself as the founding editor and owner of magazines that published selections from foreign writings--especially the risqué parts--without permission. When he reprinted segments of James Joyce's epochal novel Ulysses, the author took him to court.

Without Copyrights tells the ...

See more details below
BN.com price
(Save 16%)$35.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $19.25   
  • New (7) from $23.67   
  • Used (6) from $19.25   
Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price
(Save 43%)$23.99 List Price


The names of James Joyce and Ezra Pound ring out in the annals of literary modernism, but few recognize the name of Samuel Roth. A brash, business-savvy entrepreneur, Roth made a name--and a profit--for himself as the founding editor and owner of magazines that published selections from foreign writings--especially the risqué parts--without permission. When he reprinted segments of James Joyce's epochal novel Ulysses, the author took him to court.

Without Copyrights tells the story of how the clashes between authors, publishers, and literary "pirates" influenced both American copyright law and literature itself. From its inception in 1790, American copyright law offered no or less-than-perfect protection for works published abroad--to the fury of Charles Dickens, among others, who sometimes received no money from vast sales in the United States. American publishers avoided ruinous competition with each other through "courtesy of the trade," a code of etiquette that gave informal, exclusive rights to the first house to announce plans to issue an uncopyrighted foreign work. The climate of trade courtesy, lawful piracy, and the burdensome rules of American copyright law profoundly affected transatlantic writers in the twentieth century. Drawing on previously unknown legal archives, Robert Spoo recounts efforts by James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Bennett Cerf--the founder of Random House--and others to crush piracy, reform U.S. copyright law, and define the public domain.

Featuring a colorful cast of characters made up of frustrated authors, anxious publishers, and willful pirates, Spoo provides an engaging history of the American public domain, a commons shaped by custom as much as by law, and of piracy's complex role in the culture of creativity.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"[D]oes a masterful job of exploring the intersection between European and American publishing, economics, and copyright law in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. . . . Spoo's book is a must for anyone interested in the history of copyright law or the publishing industry. His clear writing style makes the book accessible to every audience. Summing Up: Highly recommended." -- J. D. Graveline, CHOICE

"A riveting account of U.S. copyright law's 'Wild West' origins. Highly recommended." --Library Journal (starred review)

"No work better puts copyright in its place. This beautiful book is essential reading for the remaking copyright will need." -- Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

"The many pitfalls and paradoxes of copyright are the subject of Robert Spoo's Without Copyrights, a wonderfully detailed study of how transatlantic modernism was shaped by laws surrounding the production and distribution of texts. What emerges is a revolutionary account of the ways that copyright and obscenity laws determined if, when and where modernist works could travel." -- London Times Literary Supplement

"[A] remarkable tale... Careful and definitive." -- Caleb Crain, The Nation

"Fascinating." -- Publishers Weekly

"A quite fascinating exploration... Makes for interesting and quite good reading. From its perfect opening anecdote -- James Joyce responding to a Society of Authors complaint about an unauthorized performance of a Shaw play -- to its focus on the fascinating story of Ulysses, it's full of entertaining titbits, and includes a variety of complex characters... Without Copyrights would seem essential reading for anyone dealing with copyright, but it is certainly also of interest to those with only a more casual interest in the law, the times, the authors, and these works." -Complete Review

"The public domain is the battleground for some of the fiercest and most consequential struggles in the entire world of intellectual property. By delving into its unexpectedly rich history, Robert Spoo's revelatory book shows why. As we strive for policies, laws, and norms to preserve the public domain and facilitate its creative potential, we need books like this to remind us of how high the stakes really are." --Adrian Johns, author of Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates

"Spoo is a great scholar of both copyright law and literature. He is also a gifted storyteller. This book takes readers on a splendid journey through publishing houses, courtrooms, and legislatures, illuminating the path of American copyright law." --Lior Jacob Strahilevitz, author of Information and Exclusion

"Robert Spoo's magisterial survey of the legal conditions that both frustrated and enabled the emergence of modernism is many books in one: a previously unwritten chapter in the making of our literature; a unique insight into the complicated dance between intellectual property and cultural production; a subtle exploration of the freighted concept of literary 'piracy;' and--ultimately--a compelling plea for the recognition of a universal public domain. Spoo's deep research and narrative grace make Without Copyrights a deeply satisfying reading experience: the story boasts colorful characters, unexpected incident, and surprising measures of both humor and pathos-and it is told in a voice that is as lively and unexpected as the episodes it recounts." --Peter Jaszi, coauthor of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright

"A true expert illuminates what is often obscured: how isolationist US laws conditioned the reception of modern writing. The much maligned pirates and their world come alive in this elegant and just book. Spoo's clearheaded unravelling of some arcane technicalities is a delight. A liberating addition to Joyce studies." --Justice Adrian Hardiman, MRIA, Supreme Court of Ireland

"[A] deeply researched case study of the complicated American copyright situation surrounding the great literary landmark of the 20th century, James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses." --Los Angeles Review of Books

Library Journal
Spoo (Chapman Distinguished Chair, Univ of Tulsa; Copyright and Joyce) introduces prominent figures on both sides of the creation and dissemination of modernist literature (e.g., James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Samuel Roth, Henry Holt, and Bennett Cerf) and details their emerging influence in the development of U.S. copyright law. The author explores the use of the term pirate and its application in intellectual property discussions. Spoo's multidisciplinary approach draws successful comparisons between an anarchist publishing climate and industries as unusual as lobster fishing to describe the birth of copyright law. This work joins Paul K. Saint-Amour's book of essays, Modernism and Copyright, while offering more of an objective stance and in-depth analysis. VERDICT Spoo draws from an extensive bibliography and list of primary source documents to present a riveting account of U.S. copyright law's "Wild West" origins. Highly recommended for students of literature and those studying copyright legislation.—Nerissa Kuebrich, Chicago
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Robert Spoo is Chapman Distinguished Chair at the University of Tulsa College of Law. He has published extensively on the intersection of copyright law and literature.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: "The American Public Domain and the Courtesy of the Trade in the Nineteenth Century"

Chapter 2: "Transatlantic Modernism and the American Public Domain."

Chapter 3: "Ezra Pound's Copyright Statute: Perpetual Rights and Unfair Competition with the Dead."

Chapter 4: "James Joyce's Ulysses and American Copyright Protectionism."

Chapter 5: "James Joyce v. Samuel Roth and Two Worlds Publishing Company."

Chapter 6: "The 1934 Random House Ulysses: Copyright and Trade Courtesy.


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2013

    The concepts of literary piracy, public domain, trade courtesy,

    The concepts of literary piracy, public domain, trade courtesy, and international copyright have been difficult for American historians and general readers to understand. The involvement of people such as Ezra Pound, D H Lawrence, Samuel Roth, James Joyce, and Morris Ernst with these concepts is equally complex. And so is the importance of such concepts to publishing corporations and to governmental institutions. Dr Spoo has made these concepts, and the people and organizations involved with them, brilliantly clear.

    It takes a world-class scholar of law and of literature to do so. He has uncovered facts about topics no one could expect anyone to clear up: did Ezra Pound actually file a deposition regarding unauthorized printings of _Ulysses_? Did the US Customs ever request the Justice Department to specify whether a book was obscene? What was interim copyright regarding American publication of a work first issued abroad and why did Joyce not take advantage of it. In what way were the copyright difficulties of _Ulysses_ and Southern and Hoffenberg's _Candy_ similar? Why was trade courtesy between British and American publishers a key to their stature as "gatekeepers of culture"?

    These are not abstruse questions, although they and their elucidation might be in the hands of a lesser writer, a writer less understanding of their importance in American business and literary history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)