Wednesday 13 October 2010

Global Copyright: 300 Years -- but how many more?

Global Copyright: Three Hundred Years Since the Statute of Anne, from 1709 to Cyberspace is the title of this splendid and exuberant celebration of copyright, edited by the talented triumvirate of Professors Lionel Bently (Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law, University of Cambridge), Uma Suthersanen (Queen Mary, University of London) and Paul Torremans (School of Law, University of Nottingham).  Given the number of death notices which copyright has received recently, this collection of essays might be the last to commemorate this great right -- which more than any other has shaped and channelled the flow of global culture over the previous century -- before it dwindles into insignificance in the brave new world of free access and perfect, irresistible reproduction.

As a purveyor of fine intellectual property texts, publisher Edward Elgar is having none of this pessimism (though it would be difficult to find any publisher advertising its wares on the basis that, if you don't buy them now, you'll be too late because their subject matter will have become a quaint historical footnote, like frankalmoigne).  So how does it describe this work?

This innovative book celebrates the tri-centenary of modern copyright, which began with the enactment of the Statute of Anne by the British Parliament in 1709, and was soon followed by other copyright legislation abroad. The Statute of Anne is traditionally claimed to be the world’s first copyright statute, and is thus viewed as the origin of a system of national laws that today exists in virtually all countries of the world. However, this book illustrates that while there is some truth in this claim, it is also important to treat it with caution.
Written by leading experts from across the globe, this comprehensive (historical) analysis breaks new ground on modern copyright issues such as digital libraries, illegal downloading and distribution, international exhaustion and ‘new formalities’. The expert contributors consider what lessons can be learnt from the achievements made during the last 300 years, and whether they can be used to overcome the new challenges facing copyright.
This in-depth scientific analysis of the legacy of the Statute of Anne 300 years on from its origins will provide copyright practitioners, academics, policy makers and postgraduate students with a unique and fascinating read.

In other words, the experience of the past can help understand the present, but don't too excited about its value for the future, which is conditional on too many technological uncertainties.

There's a wonderful cast of contributors, though some of the lesser lights twinkle just as brightly in this firmament as do their better-known colleagues. It would be invidious to pick out names, so for once I won't.

Bibliographic details. Published 2010. xiii + 522 pages. Hardback. ISBN 978 1 84844 766 0. Price£125 (the publisher's online discount brings this down to £112.50). This book is also available as an ebook 978 1 84980 642 8.  Web page here.

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