common law copyright was more like modern trade secret law--note that it can be lost when the piece reaches "general publication." So it was more for unpublished manuscripts etc.--if A steals B's manuscript from his desk drawer then B can prevent its publication--something like this. This has almost nothing to do with modern statutory copyright which extends *even after* the work is publicly known.
"It is easier to commit murder than to justify it." –Papinian
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