This article examines George Alexander Stevens's attempts to monopolize the performance of his popular one-man show, the Lecture on Heads (1764). Stevens performed his show during a century that increasingly valued literary property, but during which there was no legal protection for the medium of performance. As pirates created printed texts of the work and other performers staged their own versions, Stevens launched an advertising campaign to establish his exclusive right to perform the work. By emphasizing the authenticity of his Lecture and of his own performing body, and by comparing the labor of writing and performing his show to the manufacture of physical goods, Stevens laid claim to the immaterial, unfixed medium of performance. Moreover, in his revisions to the work, he played on the show's subject matter—his collection of "other folks' heads"—to develop an early articulation of the idea-expression dichotomy that remains central to intellectual property law today.


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pp. 279-297
Launched on MUSE
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