Statute of Anne

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The Statute of Anne, short title Copyright Act 1709 8 Anne c.19; long title An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned, was the first copyright statute in the Kingdom of Great Britain (thus the United Kingdom, see copyright law of the United Kingdom). It was enacted in 1709 and entered into force on 10 April 1710. It is generally considered to be the first fully-fledged copyright statute. It is named after Anne, Queen of Great Britain, during whose reign it was enacted.

The Statute of Anne is now seen as the origin of copyright law.[1]


Stationers' Company

The origins of copyright law in most European countries lies in efforts by governments to regulate and control the output of printers. The technology of printing was invented and widely established in the 15th and 16th centuries. Before the printing press, writings could only be physically multiplied by the highly laborious and error-prone process of manual copying out. Printing allowed for multiple exact copies of a work, leading to a more rapid and widespread circulation of ideas and information. While governments and church encouraged printing in many ways, which allowed the dissemination of Bibles and government information, works of dissent and criticism could also circulate rapidly. As a consequence, governments established controls over printers across Europe, requiring them to have official licences to trade and produce books. The licenses typically gave printers the exclusive right to print particular works for a fixed period of years, and enabled the printer to prevent others from printing the same work during that period. The licenses could only grant rights to print in the territory of the state that had granted them, but they did usually prohibit the import of foreign printing.[2]

In England the printers, known as stationers, formed a collective organisation, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, commonly known as the Stationers' Company. In the 16th century the Stationers' Company was given the power to require all lawfully printed books to be entered into its register. Only members of the Stationers' Company could enter books into the register. This meant that the Stationers' Company achieved a dominant position over publishing in 17th century England (no equivalent arrangement formed in Scotland and Ireland).[2] But the monopoly, granted to the Stationers' Company through the Licensing Act 1662, came to an end when parliament decided to not renew the Act after it lapsed in May 1695.[2][3]

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