Historiography involves writing about the writing of history. The field was populated early on by philosophers and literary critics, since historians seemed not too interested in theories about what they did; they just did it. After historiographers began to challenge a number of fundamental assumptions about the writing of history, such as that historians, in the Rankean sense, just "told it like it was," historians joined the battle, and the field has been quite active, although perhaps less so recently.
Copyright histories continue to be written, especially microhistories that is, histories about particular, narrow areas, like Renaissance Venetian printing privileges, or 16th century French printing privileges, or the efforts in the first third of the 1800s in England to extend the term of protection. Another fruitful area is the period leading up to the Statute of Anne, and then Millar v. Taylor, and Donaldson v. Becket[t]. Ronan Deazley and Oren Bracha have written magisterial works about this period.
But none of these are works of copyright historiography (although Professors Deazley and Bracha do a great job of positioning their studies in the larger context of the debates about the nature of copyright). Australian law Professor Kathy Bowrey has developed an important niche beginning with a 1994 SJD dissertation and continuing with a series of articles on the writing of copyright history, what I call copyright historiography. Her work meshes quite well with those of Ronan Deazley and Oren Bracha in establishing the positivist basis of copyright, and in debunking the Romantic/determinist view of copyright, but her work also helps us think about how we think about copyright.
I am particularly taken with her level headed analysis of some futurist writing on copyright. All history is about the present and perhaps the future, and so too historiography. Some futurists, however, appear to be only about themselves. Such futurists, invoking the painfully banal Alvin Toffler have wrought their own version of hell on us, much like Peruvian Incan musicians who play Simon and Garfinkel's Scarborough Fair in the 42d Street subway in Manhattan. One example in copyright is a piece written by a non-lawyer declaring that "Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong," filled with bloviated declarations that copyright is dead. If this is the Third Wave, dude, drown me please. I would venture to say that most people upset about the state of copyright today are upset at its overly vigorous life, not at a perception that it is going the way of the dodo. Generous sorts, like Professor Bowrey, may describe such futurist views as refreshing or even utopian, but my view is that they represent grandstanding whose only value is celebrity status, and of the Paris Hilton kind: one is famous for being famous (if not infamous).
There are other kinds of futurists too, like the one who declared that the "VCR is to the motion picture industry what the Boston strangler is to the woman alone," one of a long line of similar predictions of a catastrophic effect on copyright owners from new technologies.
An excellent dose of copyright historiography is just the antidote to both of these kinds of futurists: not so that we may plod along like the old Rankean historians, but rather so that we may think better about the future.