Global Copyright
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Global Copyright

Three Hundred Years Since the Statute of Anne, from 1709 to Cyberspace

Edited by Lionel Bently, Uma Suthersanen and Paul Torremans

This innovative book celebrates the tri-centenary of modern copyright, which began with the enactment of the Statute of Anne by the British Parliament in 1709, and was soon followed by other copyright legislation abroad. The Statute of Anne is traditionally claimed to be the world’s first copyright statute, and is thus viewed as the origin of a system of national laws that today exists in virtually all countries of the world. However, this book illustrates that while there is some truth in this claim, it is also important to treat it with caution.
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Chapter 2: The Statute of Anne 1709–10: Its Historical Setting

William Cornish


William Cornish* QUEEN ANNE: A LIMITED MONARCH 1 This keynote address to the Congress should be heard in a celebratory key, a key with rich and lasting sonorities: E Flat major perhaps. The Statute of Anne has sounded many striking chords in its long history as a model for copyright. Some of them are harmonious, some discordant; but as most people have appreciated, even before the knell of post-modernism, we hear what we are disposed to hear. Whatever the impression of the Statute on each of us, it has its distinctive timbre. Hence today’s act of homage. The Statute is set out in the appendix of this Volume for easy reference in much that was discussed in the First Session of the Congress and is found in the first part of this volume.1 Why copyright experts have come to regard this piece of Parliamentary legislation as ‘the Statute of Anne’ is obscure. The British do not talk of the Copyright Act 1842 as the Statute of Victoria, or the Imperial Copyright Act of 1911 as the Statute of Edward (VII). Nor in Anne’s own reign do we regard the truly fundamental Act of Union joining Scotland to England as another ‘Statute of Anne’, though nationalist Scots may condemn it as a Statute of Anne-xation. The Act on Copy-right (9 Anne c.21) is named after the monarch in the obtuse way that some nicknames stick. Of itself the name is of no more historical significance than the question whether the Act...

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