Taking as its point of departure the lapse of the Licensing Act 1662 in 1695, this book examines the lead up to the passage of the Statute of Anne 1709 and charts the movement of copyright law throughout the eighteenth century, culminating in the House of Lords decision in Donaldson v Becket (1774). The established reading of copyright's development throughout this period, from the 1709 Act to the prouncement in Donaldson, is that it was transformed from a publisher's right to an author's right; that is, legislation initially designed to regulate the marketplace of the bookseller and publisher evolved into an instrument that functioned to recognise the proprietary inevitability of an author's intellectual labours. The historical narrative which unfolds within this book presents a challenge to that accepted orthodoxy. The traditional analysis of the development of copyright in eighteenth-century Britain is revealed as exhibiting the character of long-standing myth, and the centrality of the modern proprietary author as the raison d'etre of the copyright regime is displaced.
Ronan Deazley is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Durham.