• Between copyright and creativity: Edison’s kinetoscope and technological innovations in optical printing

      Egbe, Amanda (Oxford University Press, 2020-03-17)
      Focusing on Edison’s early cinematic apparatus and the optical printer, this chapter explores how copyright law intersects with creativity, providing an alternative to teleological accounts of moving-image technologies. Thomas Edison attempted to control the film industry through patents and copyright. Edison’s first film experiments were registered as a series of photographs on card by his assistant, W. L. Dickson. In protecting these contact copies as paper prints with copyright, the new medium of motion pictures was being formalized. The necessity to duplicate film to support the development of exhibition and distribution was also necessary for copyright purposes. An archaeological approach is utilized to explore how paper prints enabled innovation in the area of the optical printer, a primary form of duplication in cinema. In developing approaches that could bring to life the remaining examples of early cinema, novel solutions in the form of innovations were required. The overlapping concerns of the copyright clerk, the film entrepreneur, and the film historian thus provide a basis for new materials and new innovations in moving-image technology and film history.