Colonial Copyright: Intellectual Property in Mandate Palestine

Michael D. Birnhack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


When the British Empire enacted copyright law for its colonies, it called it colonial copyright, or imperial copyright, but it had only one kind of interest in mind: its own. This book deconstructs the imperial policy regarding copyright, by reversing the order and asking how British copyright was received in the colonies. Colonial copyright is told here from the point of view of the colonized, rather than the colonizer's standpoint. The book suggests a general model of Colonial Copyright, understood as the intersection of legal transplants, colonial law, and the particular features of copyright, especially authorship. Mandate Palestine (1917-48) is the leading case study. The book tells a yet-untold history of copyright law that was the basis of Israeli law, and still is the law in the Palestinian Authority. The discussion is a critical cultural legal history, told from a postcolonial stance. It queries the British motivation in enacting copyright law, traces their first, indifferent reaction, and continues with the gradual absorption into the local legal and cultural systems. The story unfolded explores the emergence of local literary activities, the introduction of telegraph and radio, and the business models of the content industries. We shall meet many pioneers, in literature, music, film, and the law. The discussion is acutely aware of the role of identity politics, and of the meeting point of the foreign, colonial law with the local norms and cultures. It suggests that we view colonial copyright as an early case of globalization.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages313
ISBN (Electronic)0191637181, 019163719X, 0191746142, 0199661138, 1283705923, 9780191746147, 9780199661138
ISBN (Print)9780199661138
StatePublished - 2012


  • Authorship
  • British Empire
  • Copyright History
  • Copyright Law
  • Culture
  • Globalization
  • Identity Politics
  • Legal Transplants
  • Mandate Palestine
  • Postcolonial Studies

ULI Keywords

  • uli
  • Copyright -- Eretz Israel -- History
  • Eretz Israel -- Colonial influence


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