Through a series of vivid case studies, Authors in Court charts the 300-year-long dance between authorship and copyright that has shaped each institution’s response to changing social norms of identity, privacy, and celebrity. Authors’ self-presentations in court are often inflected by prevailing concepts of propriety and respectability. And judges, for their part, have not been immune to the reputation and standing of the authors who have appeared before them in legal dramas.
Some authors strut their roles on the public stage. For example, Napoleon Sarony—the nineteenth-century photographer whose case established that photographs might be protected as works of art—was fond of marching along Broadway dressed in a red fez and high-top campaign boots, proclaiming his special status as a celebrity. Others, such as the reclusive J. D. Salinger, enacted their dramas precisely by shrinking from attention. Mark Rose’s case studies include the flamboyant early modern writer Daniel Defoe; the self-consciously genteel poet Alexander Pope; the nineteenth-century abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe; the once-celebrated early twentieth-century dramatist Anne Nichols, author of Abie’s Irish Rose; and the provocative contemporary artist Jeff Koons.
These examples suggest not only how social forms such as gender and gentility have influenced the self-presentation of authors in public and in court but also how the personal styles and histories of authors have influenced the development of legal doctrine.