Tuesday 27 October 2009

Joseph Smith and the Copyright Revelation

1709 Blog reader Arnold Thomas writes to ask whether it would have been possible for early Mormon leader Joseph Smith, an American citizen, to obtain in early 1830 a copyright for his book The Book of Mormon that would have been valid for Canada? According to Mr Thomas,
"Joseph Smith had registered an American copyright for The Book of Mormon on June 11, 1829 and the book was announced for sale on March 1830.

There is a discussion going on now on this topic [for which see link to The Fair Blog here], spurred by the recent publication of a previously unpublished document in which Smith sends his men to Canada in order to secure a copyright and attempt to sell it to raise money.

A complex and difficult-to-follow argument was posted in support of the position that it would have been possible for Smith to do so. Others have maintained that Smith couldn't, variously because he was an American citizen, or because the Statute of Anne did not apply to Canada.

I am wondering which argument is correct, or perhaps another answer is".
The Fair Blog, which I took to be an allusion to the copyright concepts of fair use or fair dealing, turns out to be subtitled 'Defending Mormonism'. If any readers of this blog have an interest in copyright history, the Fair Blog would greatly appreciate their opinions.

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