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This essay pivots from a discussion of copyright in nineteenth-century periodical discourse to the near history of copyright, commercially licensed resources, and fair use that shapes digital periodicals scholarship today. Using the digitization of British Library newspapers as a case study, I demonstrate how arguments about access to public domain materials do not fully account for the complex international landscape of rights and exceptions for digital periodicals resources. This landscape is also changing with the emergence of legal exceptions for computational research methods like text and data mining. These methods may point to new forms of scholarly communication, particularly "transformative uses" that work around the restrictive vestiges of copyright law. Ultimately, this essay claims that scholars need to understand the changing parameters of copyright, not simply as a set of rules that affects their day-to-day work but as an opportunity to shape the law and advocate for creative forms of research and scholarly communication.