University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series
Last Updated: 17 May 2012
“The World Daguerreotyped – What a Spectacle!” Copyright Law, Photography and the commodification project of Empire
Professor Kathy Bowrey, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales
This paper is available for download at:
This paper may be referenced as  UNSWLRS 18.
This paper concerns copyright law and the history of photography. As has been documented by other writers such as Edelman, Bently and Deazley, the inclusion of photography in the copyright regime was controversial because of the mechanical and scientific nature of the method of production. However there is more to the story of copyright law and photography than one about classificatory objections and the derisory attitudes of particular legal and cultural elites about a new technology. The legal history needs to be understood in light of a much wider celebration of the wonder of photography and its importance to the world. Enthusiasm for the photographic medium impacted on political, economic and social life. This in turn left a mark on copyright law. This paper considers how the inclusion of photography within the copyright act served a larger economic ambition of Empire. Photography was an important new tool for representation of peoples, character and place in this world and the law encouraged new forms of exhibition and consumption that impacted on social, economic and private life across the British Empire.