The Fate of Style in an Age of Intellectual Property

ENGLISH LITERARY HISTORY 80.3 (2013): 748-782

Abstract: The copyright debate of the eighteenth century was informed by two antithetical accounts of style. From an older rhetorical view that stressed language’s refinement was derived the idea/expression dichotomy, the principle that copyright protects not a work’s ideas but only its arrangement of words. From a newer view of style as an expression of self was developed a modern defense of copyright as promoting the expressive diversity essential to a democratic polity. This essay considers how, with one account guiding the law’s application and the other its rationale, incompatibility helped to render copyright effectively indifferent to stylistic creativity.