It’s not exactly the most notable of documents, but for every inventor, musician, cinematographer, and scientist, the Statute of Anne is sure cause for commemoration. Named for Queen Anne, in 1710, the British Parliament enacted this legislation which was the predecessor for modern copyright law.
The long title of the Act was “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”. As the name suggests, the fundamental intent of the law was to encourage learned men to write and print literature, and the originality of the authors would be protected. Three hundred years later, the Statute of Anne has morphed into the copyright and IP laws we have today.
In Wednesday’s The Hill newspaper, Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT) wrote an editorial extolling the benefits of strong copyright laws, saying “copyright laws offer creators incentive to produce new and unique works. These may come in various forms, including movies, music, and books, all of which are important components of American culture. These works create jobs, from their production and manufacture to the advertising and sales that support them.”
The Senator is absolutely right. Strong copyright laws which protect intellectual property are an economic boost and inspire greater innovation. Think about it – if an author could have her work stolen and marketed by someone else with no penalty, what is her incentive to create more literary works? Such creative innovation is being stifled by the rampant piracy and copyright infringement which takes place via the internet.
Also, this week the Government Accountability Office released a report explaining how counterfeiting and piracy has detrimental effects on the economy, though noting these effects are extremely difficult to calculate. Check out the Copyright Alliance blog for an excellent run down of the positive, as well as concerning aspects of the report.