06 April 2010

A Blawg Review Three Hundred Years in the Making

This week marks the three hundredth anniversary of the enactment of the Statute of Anne, considered the first copyright law. As Cathy Gellis explains in this week's Blawg Review #258, the issues of expression, commerce, author's rights, readers' access, and freedom the Statute addressed are still debated today:
[T]otal power over the creation and dissemination of written works would cause a politically restless populace to bristle, and Parliament eventually acted to wrest the Royal Privilege to publish from this cabal and restore it to the population at large. It is thus bitterly ironic that today, almost exactly 300 years later, the English Parliament stands ready to do the exact opposite and restore total control over the creation and dissemination of work to a new generation of monopolists.

What makes it so ironic is, of course, what has long been forgotten: that the Statute of Anne was passed as “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.” The intent of the copy right it created was always to stimulate the dissemination of knowledge. Now, three hundred years later, we have the ultimate disseminator of knowledge: the Internet, yet in England -- as well as countless other countries -- copyright law is evolving to stop the spread of information -- the exact opposite effect.
Highlights of this week's edition of Blawg Review include the counter-progress of the Digital Economy Bill in Britain and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement elsewhere, the continuing burdens placed on the Digital Millennium by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the absurd evolution of the "good intentions" behind the Statute of Anne. It's a great overview of copyright issues, a great snapshot in time of one week in the ongoing struggle amongst those involved with modern copyright issues, and a great Blawg Review which should contend for best of the year honors.

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