The Untold Story of the First Copyright Suit Under the Statute of Anne in 1710
106 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2010 Last revised: 14 Apr 2011
Date Written: March 16, 2010
This is the story of Tonson v. Baker, the first copyright suit filed under the Statute of Anne in 1710. Brought in the Court of Chancery three months after the statute went into effect, the case pitted the most famous publisher of the day against a gang of notorious book pirates. The case was never reported, but it has now been pieced together using over 100 manuscript records marshaled mainly from archives in London, England, and from hundreds of other primary sources. After recounting the suit and the circumstances surrounding it, this Article uses Tonson v. Baker as a launching pad to demonstrate how copyright history can remain doctrinally relevant today. The subject of my critique is the Supreme Court’s decision in Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., which concerned the constitutional right to a jury trial for statutory damages under the Copyright Act of 1976. The Article closes by providing transcriptions of the manuscript court documents from Tonson.
Keywords: Legal History, Copyright, Statute Of Anne, 1710, Statutory Damages, Feltner
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