The Statute of Anne: Today and Tomorrow
9 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2020 Last revised: 26 Jun 2020
Date Written: December 1, 2010
This essay provides the epilogue to the University of Houston’s Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law’s 2010 National Conference, “The ©©© Conference: Celebrating Copyright’s tri-Centennial,” in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The conference focused on the Statute of Anne, the first copyright statute ever, anywhere, enacted by the British Parliament in 1710.
Copyright law in the United States, the lineal descendant of the Statute of Anne, has managed to negotiate a course between over-protecting and under-protecting copyrighted matter, and to strike at least a rough balance between the social interest in securing capital investment, on the one hand, and encouraging both innovation and free expression, on the other. What may the future hold?
To enable speculation about the answer to that question, the essay imagines a Rip Van Winkle of copyright law, who dozed off in 1710 and has just re-awoken. The three centuries just past surely would provide our sleeper a rude awakening to the many changes occasioned by human creativity and technological progress.
Perhaps, due to those same factors plus internationalization, the future eventually will bring about copyright’s demise, or at least the passing of U.S. copyright law as we have known it. Yet the authors dare to hope that this unique, if peculiar, body of law will continue in the future, as it has in the past, to discharge its ancient calling: to balance proprietary right and public access for the greater good of society.
Keywords: Statute of Anne, 1710, Rip Van Winkle, technological change, new information technology, internationalization, copyright, copyright course, intellectual property, intellectual property survey
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