Three Hundred Years Since the Statute of Anne, from 1709 to Cyberspace
Edited by Lionel Bently, Uma Suthersanen and Paul Torremans
The first modern copyright law was enacted by the British Parliament in 1709 and came into force in 1710. This was the Statute of Anne: an Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies. . . The Act proved to be a catalyst and was soon followed by other copyright legislation, the most influential being the French droit d’auteur decrees passed in 1791 and 1793. For more than a century all efforts remained focussed at a national level, but increasingly this territorial approach became a problem. Consequently, the International Literary and Artistic Association (ALAI) was founded in Paris in 1878, with Victor Hugo as its honorary chairman. Its main objective was to promote an international agreement to protect authors of literary, scientific and artistic works. The association achieved this with the adoption on 9 September 1886, of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This was the culmination of 175 years of modern copyright laws. The Convention recognised and developed legal principles that were first forged under national systems. In essence this is still the copyright system as we know it. The ALAI 2009 London Congress celebrated the tercentenary of modern copyright law. It explored the various principles set out in the Statute of Anne, such as the right of printing and publishing, the notion of libraries as repositories of knowledge, the right of authors to control the importation of books, and the question of...