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 5: The Statute of Anne and Author’s Rights: Pope v. Curll (1741)

Mark Rose


5. The Statute of Anne and authors’ rights: Pope v. Curll (1741) Mark Rose* INTRODUCTION 1 It is commonplace to note that English copyright law is, despite its stated emphasis on the public interest, essentially commercial in origin. After all, the Statute of Anne, the first English copyright act, emerged in 1709 largely as a result of the disruptions in the book trade that came about with the end of licensing in 1695. Likewise, US copyright law, which descends from the English statute, is also essentially commercial. The European civil law countries, on the other hand, give priority to the author and these laws, at least in theory, are founded on authors’ rights. What I want to do is to test or qualify the familiar contrast between the copyright tradition that descends from the Statute of Anne and the authors’ rights traditions of the civil law countries. I propose to do so by discussing one of the early Statute of Anne cases – Pope v. Curll,1 decided in 1741 – in order to suggest how in this lawsuit the poet, Alexander Pope was using the Statute of Anne to pursue personal as well as economic interests. Furthermore, to suggest that Pope v. Curll is by no means a unique or erratic case, I propose to leap some 250 years from the time of the Statute of Anne to the near present and the important American case Salinger v. Random House,2 decided in 1987. The similarities between Pope and Salinger are...

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