The First Global Copyright Act
THE FIRST GLOBAL COPYRIGHT ACT, IN A SHIFTING EMPIRE: 100 YEARS OF THE COPYRIGHT ACT 1911, U. Suthersanen & Y. Gendreau, eds., Edward Elgar, 2012
41 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 15, 2012
The process of consolidation and reform of copyright law in Britain dragged on interminably from the first efforts in the 1830s to 1911. This essay explores the reasons for this delay through a contextual analysis of the period that preceded the adoption of the Imperial Copyright Act 1911. Copyright reform in the nineteenth century, leading up to the Imperial Copyright Act 1911, was not driven by single issues or discrete lobbying groups. First, there was authorial and publishing pressure for domestic and international copyright reform to combat the growing, global piracy of English language works. Secondly, the delay was partly due to the need for the British government to come to terms with its role as international legislator for a global British polity. Much of the debates concerning the reform of copyright law revolved, surprisingly, on imperial governance, international comity, and the protection of the colonial market trade. This is seen when we turn to survey some examples on imperial and trade concerns, including the Anglo-Canadian copyright relations. The essay concludes by discussing the post-1911 copyright era in the UK, noting that in retrospect, the Imperial Copyright Act 1911 was the first global law written and administered by the United Kingdom. The statute was, conceptually, the first multilateral agreement, and if we push the analogy further, the forerunner of the TRIPS Agreement.
This essay is part of a multi-authored collection that specifically surveys the impact and evolution of the Imperial Copyright Act 1911 on countries that were part of the Empire.
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