Copyright Law at 300

The world’s first
copyright law was passed by the English Parliament on 10 April 1710 as
‘An Act for the Encouragement of Learning’.  The Queen Anne Statute, as
it is known, marked the beginning of modern copyright law.  Professor
Gillian Davies, author of ‘Copyright and the Public Interest’, describes
it as ‘the foundation upon which the modern concept of copyright in the
Western world was built’, quoting Halsbury’s ‘Laws of England’, edited
by Lord Hailsham, as saying, ‘In changing the conceptual nature of
copyright, it became the most important single event in copyright
history’ and Barbara Ringer, US Registrar of Copyrights, as saying, ‘It
is the mother of us all, and a very possessive mother at that.’


The 300th
anniversary provides a unique opportunity to review copyright’s purposes
and principles.  If today we were starting from scratch, but with the
same aim of encouraging learning‚ what kind of copyright would we want?