Table of Contents

Research Handbook on the History of Copyright Law

Research Handbook on the History of Copyright Law

Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Isabella Alexander and H. Tomás Gómez-Arostegui

There has been an explosion of interest in recent years regarding the origin and of intellectual property law. The study of copyright history, in particular, has grown remarkably in the last twenty years, with a flurry of activity in the last ten. Crucial to this activity has been a burgeoning focus on unpublished primary sources, enabling new and stimulating insights. This Handbook takes stock of the field of copyright history as it stands today, as well as examining potential developments in the future.

Chapter 6: The anatomy of copyright law in Scotland before 1710

Alastair J. Mann

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law


In 1707, when Scotland joined with England in parliamentary union, a partnership was joined both political and economic. Setting aside a few temporary taxation exemptions for Scotland, economic union with England meant a shared currency, common weights and measures and standardised customs and duties, but more significantly, as confirmed in article IV of the Treaty of Union, ‘full freedom and intercourse of trade’. Scotland had helped create the largest free trade area in western Christendom. While one of the temporary exemptions agreed for Scotland was from English duties on stamped paper, a brief advantage for the book trade in the north, the regulation of that trade and of copyright was unmentioned; by omission, the status quo ante would prevail. Given the depredations of Anglo-Scottish copyright litigation from Tonson v Walker in 1739 to the more ‘infamous’ Donaldson v Becket in 1774 perhaps it is as well that such a topic was set aside. Such controversy might have delayed a vital treaty that for many secured religion and security. The Statute of Anne of 1710 was intended, of course, to fill the regulatory void, yet by then that void had become a vacuum with the demise of the Scottish Privy Council in 1708, as well as pressure from an English book trade smarting at the opportunism of Scottish books entering the English market. In fact the Scottish Privy Council had enormous significance for the history of copyright in early modern Scotland.

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