Thursday, February 12, 2009

Statute of Anne

I found a very interesting, and rather important, case Starr mentions that happened in 1774. A Scottish printer by the name of Alexander Donaldson had opened a shop shelling reprints of English works for 30 to 50 percent of what the English printers were selling them for. The English printers were outraged by this and sued Donaldson. This was due the common interpretation of the Statute of Anne. The Statute of Anne, created in 1710, extended that years of a copyright from 14 to 21. It was though was that the years mentioned in the statute only applied to the penalties for the infringement of the copyright and not the copyright itself. This however was not to be the case as the House of Lords ruled in favor of Donaldson. This case established the fact that copyrights are time limited and that no one can perpetually own a copyright.

I just think it is funny. I guess Donaldson figured that there were two likely scenarios that would follow from his actions. Either a) he wouldn't be bothered with because there would be no penalty. Or b) He would be brought up on charges, but what could they do to him because by the law there were no penalty.


At 4:55 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

An important topic these days. Piracy of intellectual property was as big problem in the age of print as it is today. Authors and publishers had little control over the unauthorized republication of their work. The Statute of Anne (1710) marks the beginning of the era of copyright protection by government.

The key issues here are: Why was this act necessary? And, why was the term of copyright limited to 14 and 21 years? Why not longer or shorter or forever? What is the logic here?


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