CIPP Seminar in collaboration with Lallemand Inc., and the Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law – Copyright as a Publicity Right? Stories from the UK in the Nineteenth Century

Speaker: Dr. Elena Cooper


Elena Cooper is Orton Fellow in Intellectual Property Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge and a Member of Cambridge University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law. She is also currently a researcher at the Faculty of Law on the “Of Authorship and Originality” project funded by Humanities in the European Research Area. After graduating in 1999 with a law degree from the London School of Economics and master’s degree in Intellectual Property Law from King’s College London, Elena worked for a City of London law firm for close to five years, specialising in Intellectual Property litigation. Following this, in 2006, she moved to the University of Cambridge, where she completed a PhD on the relationship between art and law in the history of photographic copyright 1850-1911, under the supervision of Professor Lionel Bently. Her PhD thesis was awarded the University’s prestigious Yorke Prize (for dissertations of exceptional quality which make a substantial contribution to legal knowledge). She has been a Fellow at Trinity Hall since 2009.


It is commonly assumed that legal protection for aspects of personality has emerged in the UK only in recent times, in contrast to the experience in other jurisdictions (e.g. USA, France and Germany) where protection developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This presentation seeks to readdress this narrative, by uncovering the early history of UK photographic copyright following the passage of the Fine Arts Copyright Act 1862 (the first UK copyright statute expressly to protect photographs). Drawing on original archival research, the paper identifies the ways in which photographic copyright operated as a nineteenth century law protecting the commercial value of celebrity likeness, shaped by interests which in other jurisdictions during the twentieth century, would be protected by separate regimes of publicity rights. The presentation closes with conclusions about what this means for both the way we think about copyright history and the legal protection of personality in the UK today.

This content has been updated on August 16, 2015 at 20:16.