|Ph.D Student||Arthur Abramov|
|Subject||The Printing Press and its Implications|
|Department||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management||Supervisor||Dr. Bental Benjamin|
|Full Thesis text|
Economic theory argues that to provide incentives for creative work, intellectual output should be protected against copiers and imitators. While the problem of unauthorized publications has emerged immediately after the invention of the printing press at the middle of the fifteenth century, the earliest “modern” copyright laws appeared in England only in the eighteenth century. The thesis studies the problems of intellectual property protection before the introduction of these “modern” laws and explains why despite the absence of formal copyright laws, the book market has developed very quickly.
Some form of legal protection had developed shortly after the introduction of the printing technology. Specifically, authorities in Western Europe had been giving protection to the printers (mainly) by granting them privileges - the exclusive right to print the privileged book for a given number of years. Some historians have argued that the effectiveness of these privileges was strongly associated with the strength of the granting authority. However, the example of Venice, where the privilege system was intensively used, does not confirm this theory. Moreover, numerous cases of privilege violations in sixteenth century France imply that the system was only partially effective also in centralized countries.
A second way of easing the problem of unauthorized editions was the cartelization of the book market. The integration of the printing profession into guilds at the middle of the sixteenth century had strengthened the cartelization trend. This cartelization was further enhanced by the practice of printers to swap their respective editions, thus significantly reducing the incentive to illegally copy each other's books.
The thesis provides a novel analysis of data pertaining to books published in Venice during the first decades of the printing age and empirically examines the effectiveness of the Venetian privilege system. In contrast to previous assessments concerning the competitive structure of the Venetian market, it is shown that the market was characterized by substantial cooperation among printers and had a similar structure to that of other European towns. A careful examination of the privilege system demonstrates that it was effective as long as the protected items were well defined such as missals, breviaries or Greek books. When the privileges were ill defined the number of infringements was significant.