The Statute of Anne 1710

The Statute of Anne 1710

The Statute of Anne 1710
The Statute of Anne 1710 – Under Queen Anne, the Act of Union joined the kingdoms of England and Scotland, and the statute that bears her name established the first copyright law.

Queen Anne (1665–1714)

The right of ownership in a creative work, often known as the right to duplicate it or copyright, generally belongs to the author or creator, but he or she can assign, license, or sell it.

Authors and other creators, on the other hand, haven’t always had statutory protection for their work. Prior to Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the printing press, documents were generally copied by hand by monks serving as scribes for the Church.

“The age of ‘authorship,’ as former Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin characterized it, had not yet come.” Following the introduction of commercial printing in England, Mary I granted the Stationers’ Company, a long-standing trade guild, a royal charter in 1557, granting them a publishing monopoly. Individual printers of the Stationers’ Company, not the authors of the books it produced, were recognized as the rights-holders in the works under the law.

It wasn’t until 1710 that Parliament passed the first law protecting authors’ rights. For the first time, the Statute of Anne—formally An Act 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—granted authors significant rights, including the exclusive right to reproduce their works, rather than vesting those rights automatically in printers or booksellers.

However, the original copyrights were not unrestricted. The statute’s book protections lasted for twenty-eight years (one fourteen-year term that may be renewed), and writers were required to contribute nine copies of each work to the Royal Library and a number of university libraries, notably Oxford and Cambridge. If the owner wished to pursue fines from an alleged offender, the legislation also required that the title of a copyrighted work be registered with the Stationers’ Company prior to publication. The legislation eventually compelled the Stationers’ Company to include a notice in each copy of a book stating that it had been registered.

It’s no exaggeration to argue that the Act of Union, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland three years previously, established the foundation for all later copyright legislation in the United Kingdom, America, and the rest of the globe.

SEE ALSO:

America’s First Copyright Law (1790);

The Berne Convention (1878);

The Copyright Act of 1976;

Expanded Copyrights (2001).

Sources:

The Statute of Anne 1710

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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