Commentary on:
Sieyès' report (1790)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: f_1790


Commentary on Sieyès' report

Frédéric Rideau

Faculty of Law, University of Poitiers, France


Please cite as:

Rideau, F. (2010) ‘Commentary on Sieyès' Report (1790)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,



1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. References


1. Full title

Report of M. the Abbé Sieyès on the freedom of the press, and the bill against offences which can be committed by means of printing, and by the publication of writings and engravings


2. Abstract

A draft law for the organisation and regulation of the book market - the first such bill in France to invoke author's rights - was presented to the Constitutional Committee in January 1790 by the Abbé Sieyès, the famous statesman and deputy of the Third Estate. Literary property, which seems to have been relegated to a secondary place in this draft, was only guaranteed for very short terms of protection, since it had to be subordinated to the crucial consideration of public interest in this revolutionary period. Although the bill was not passed, it has nevertheless been interpreted as reflecting - along the same lines as Condorcet (f_1776a), albeit in the context of the Revolution - a truly liberal current in French copyright discourse at the expense of Romantic notions of the author and his work. In a way it was also a further defence of the provincial booksellers' cause, which had been bolstered by the initial revolutionary debates. In reality, Sieyès's draft law, as its very title suggested, was above all concerned with "the offences which can be committed by means of printing". Furthermore, the proposed law was officially intended to be in force for a period of just two years, in contrast to François Hell's bill (f_1791a), which would be submitted a few months later.


3. References

full commentary in preparation

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