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 27: Exhaustion – A Casualty of the Borderless Digital Era

Trevor Cook


Trevor Cook* 1 THE EARLY YEARS Some have suggested that the origins of the Statute of Anne may have lain in part in the efforts of London publishers to reassert control over the parallel trade in books from Scotland that had been lost by virtue of the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1707.1 Certainly those drafting the Statute were alive to the risk of imports from outside Great Britain, but though its first clause conferred on its beneficiaries a monopoly, inter alia, over the import of the books to which it applied (its application to ‘any books in Greek, Latin or any other foreign language printed beyond the seas’ being expressly excluded by the seventh clause) the penalties for import were found to be inadequate to discourage cheap imports from countries outside the nascent ‘common market’ of England and Scotland – notably at that time Ireland and the Netherlands. Accordingly, 30 years later, it proved necessary to pass in 1739 ‘An Act for Prohibiting the Importation of Books reprinted abroad and first composed or written and printed in Great Britain and for limiting the Prices of Books’. This increased the penalties for such import and clause 1 of this expressly prohibited importing for sale those works ‘first printed, composed or written or published in Great Britain’.2 The following century also saw numerous legislative attempts, notably through a series of Customs Acts, to deal with the increasing problems caused by the import of cheap reprints of English books into...

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