The ancestor of all of our copyright laws, the Statute of Anne, is 300 years old today.
Before this law was passed, only “copy rights” (as they were called at the time) were controlled and enforced by guilds, who had exclusive – and eternal – rights granted to them under license from the Crown, to print books.
This law, passed in 1710 and named after the Queen at the time, moved the “copy right” from the guilds (publishers, if you like) to the authors. It also reduced the length of the term of copy right (to 21 years for books already in print and 14+14 years for new ones) – which effectively birthed the Public Domain.
So revolutionary as this idea that elements of the Statute of Anne found their way into the U.S. Constitution.
Oh, how far we have fallen…