"...Franklin's principles didn't inhibit him from re-publishing the works of eighteenth century British authors without seeking their permission or offering remuneration..."
From the same article:
"Piracy was rampant because the United States refused to sign international agreements protecting copyright, in the belief that this would damage its own publishing industry."
"The copyright law of 1790, which allowed pirating, was nationalistic in intent. Drafted by Noah Webster, the great lexicographer who later compiled an American dictionary, the law protected only the work of American authors; it was felt that English writers should look out for themselves."
"Bad as the law was, none of the early publishers were willing to have it changed because it proved profitable for them... the cheap and plentiful supply of pirated foreign books and classics in the first 50 years of the new country did educate Americans, including the first great writers, who began to make their appearance around 1825."
"American copyright law was not reformed until 1891. Even then, no compensation was provided for works published before that date, and at the behest of the American print unions, a clause was inserted that required that in order for a work to be copyrighted it must contain a copyright notice and be registered at the US Copyright Office, which effectively meant that the first editions of a work had to be printed in the US for the book to be eligible for copyright protection."