Will SLAUTER

Professeur en histoire et civilisation américaines, Sorbonne Université
Thèmes de recherche
  • Histoire du livre et de l’édition
  • Histoire des médias 
  • Histoire du droit 

I joined the faculty of Sorbonne Université in 2020. My research interests include the history of publishing, the history of news and journalism, and the history of copyright law in the United States and the United Kingdom. I was trained as a historian of the eighteenth century; my dissertation, supervised by Robert Darnton at Princeton, focused on the circulation of news between North America, Great Britain, and France during the American Revolution. I retain an interest in the eighteenth century, though my recent projects have ventured into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

My book Who Owns the News? A History of Copyright (Stanford, 2019) tells the story of the centuries-long struggle to “protect” news by treating it as a form of intellectual property. Beginning with the earliest printed news publications in the sixteenth century and ending with an epilogue on the digital age, the book charts the evolution of British and American copyright laws in relation to shifts in technology, business strategy, and journalistic practice.  A broader interest in how historical research can help to illuminate recent shifts in the media landscape has led me to contribute to collaborative projects on the political economy of journalism and the history of information since the early modern era.  

My current research focuses on copyright law and the circulation of images during the nineteenth century. I am currently co-editing a book with Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire on artistic culture and intellectual property in nineteenth-century Britain and the United States, with contributions by art historians, legal scholars, and specialists of printing, photography, and the fine arts.  

Publications significatives

(For a more complete list, see the open repository HAL): 

Monograph:

Who Owns the News? A History of Copyright (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019). – Winner of the 2020 prize for best book in the history of media from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Edited volumes:

Copyright Law and Publishing Practice in the Nineteenth-Century Press, special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review51, no. 4 (Winter 2018): 583-737.

(co-edited with Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire), Circulation and Control: Artistic Culture and Intellectual Property in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, forthcoming).

Articles and book chapters:

“Forward-Looking Statements: News and Speculation in the Age of the American Revolution,” Journal of Modern History 81, no. 4 (Dec. 2009): 759-792.

“Write Up Your Dead: The Bills of Mortality and the London Plague of 1665,” Media History 17, no. 1 (Feb. 2011): 1-15.

“Constructive Misreadings: Adams, Turgot, and the American State Constitutions,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 115, no. 1 (Mar. 2011): 33-67.

“A Trojan Horse in Parliament: International Publicity in the Age of the American Revolution,” in Charles Walton, ed., Into Print: Limits and Legacies of the Enlightenment. Essays in Honor of Robert Darnton (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2011), 15-31.

“Le paragraphe mobile : circulation et transformation des informations dans le monde atlantique du XVIIIe siècle,”Annales : Histoire, sciences sociales 67, no. 2 (avr.-juin 2012) : 363-389. English version: “The Paragraph as Information Technology: How News Traveled in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World,” Annales: H.S.S. 67, no. 2 (April-June 2012): 253-278. 

“Upright Piracy: Understanding the Lack of Copyright for Journalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Book History 16 (2013): 34-61.

“The Rise of the Newspaper,” in Richard R. John and Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, eds., Making News: The Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the Internet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 19-46.

“A Satirical News Aggregator in Eighteenth-Century London,” Media History 22, nos. 3-4 (2016): 371-385.

“Taking the Long View: The Business of News and the Limits of Copyright,” Critical Analysis of Law 6, no. 2 (2019): 262-272 [in response to a book forum on Who Owns the News?].

“Periodicals and the Commercialization of Information in the Early Modern Era,” in Ann Blair, Paul Duguid, Anja Goeing, and Anthony Grafton, eds., Information: A Historical Companion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021), 128-151.

Responsabilités collectives

Vice President, Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing (SHARP), since 2019

Governing Board, International Society for the History and Theory of Intellectual Property (ISHTIP), since 2010

Collaborations scientifiques

Images, Copyright, and the Public Domain in the Long Nineteenth Century”: interdisciplinary project co-directed with Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire (Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library), supported by the Terra Foundation of American Art, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Winterthur Museum, and the Institut universitaire de France.