Washington Irving: Lawyer, Author, and Copyright Advocate

October 31, 2016

 

Washington Irving, the creator of the short story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," wasn't the first lawyer to pick up his pen to write stories instead of legal briefs. 

 

One of his key focuses as an author was to fight for copyright laws.  He found that his works in the United Kingdom, just as those of Charles Dickens, and later Rudyard Kipling, in the United States were pirated.  

 

In an effort to solve the problem of copyright abuse, he consulted another lawyer/author, Sir. Walter Scott, who helped him publish his works in England with his own publisher.  

Having the protection of copyright in both the UK and US allowed him the peace of mind and capital to become and literary celebrity.

 

Irving would work with other authors such as Poe, Hawthorne, Longfellow and Melville to encourage their writings.

 

While it is alleged that he wasn't the brightest student in the law and barely passed the bar, it is clear it was aware of how the law could be used to protect his works and those of other authors who would publish in both the United States and the United Kingdom.  

 

International copyright law would suffer for many years.  It wouldn't be until 1891 that the United State instituted an international copyright that would protect international authors' works in the United States.

 

 

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