The US didn’t pass international copyright protection until 1891. Until then, anything that sold elsewhere could be sold in the US without restriction. If it was a bestseller in Britain, we brought it over. The presses were smoking and ready to go.

1790 – The US passes its first national copyright law. It provides fourteen year coverage for authors who were citizens or residents of the US.

1831 – The US extends copyright to 28 years but refuses to make international considerations

1842 – Dickens toured the US pleading for copyright protection

1843 – A Christmas Carol was selling for six cents in the US and $2.50 in England

1850 – Among Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the US still refused to recognize international copyright, contrary those acts already instituted by Denmark, Prussia, England, France, and Belgium.

1891 – Congress passed an international copyright act and gained reciprocal rights from the British. The typesetters had made a fortune harvesting the productive capacity of British authors, and the act would no doubt affect their copyright arbitrage model. Congress made sure to support them through the transition. The Copyright Act of 1891 protected only those foreign works that were typeset in the US.