Saturday, 10 April 2021

the statute of anne

Whereas prior to the enactment of the title law in 1710, re-printing and distribution was regulated by an earlier act to provide for the licensing of the press and enforced by the Stationers’ Company, the parliamentary legislation made the matter of copyright protection and enforcement the responsibility of the government and the courts rather than the domain of private publishers and guilds to settle. The preamble of the statue for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned begins: 

Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted ... 

From the beginning booksellers, publishers and authors battled to extend their exclusive rights to titles—broadening first with what was interpreted as judicial over-reach by granting universities patent over their associates’ works in perpetuity before being eventually repealed, reworked and adopted in some form in jurisdictions throughout the world.