Book Review — ­Global Copyright: Three Hundred Years Since The Statute Of Anne, From 1709 To Cyberspace

Book Review — ­Global Copyright: Three Hundred Years Since The Statute Of Anne, From 1709 To Cyberspace

Rex Shoyama is a Legal Product Developer at Thomson Reuters and an MI candidate in the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. He was IP Osgoode’s Assistant Director from 2008 to 2010. The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming book review in the Intellectual Property Journal.

The Statute of Anne is often referred to in debates about copyright law and policy to suggest that copyright must be fundamentally rethought because society and technology have changed significantly since the days of the printing press.  What is not nearly as common is a collection of commentary which discusses the Statute of Anne within its broader historical context, extracting lessons that are fruitful for modern copyright policy and reform.

Global Copyright: Three Hundred Years Since the Statute of Anne, From 1709 to Cyberspace (edited by Professors Lionel Bently, Uma Suthersanen and Paul Torremans), is a book which accomplishes the uncommon and provides the reader with unique insights.

This book is a result of the ALAI 2009 London Congress, which leading copyright experts and scholars from across the globe attended in order to celebrate the 300th anniversary of The Statute of Anne.  The format of the book is one of multiple authors, each contributing one chapter to the book.  A quick glance at the list of contributors shows representation from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Finland, France, Japan, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the USA.  A broad range of perspectives are canvassed in the book by experts working in academia, copyright and patent offices, libraries, technology companies, book trade associations, and copyright collectives.

With 300 years to cover since the Statute of Anne, there are many topics that could be covered and it would be easy to get lost in the possibilities, but the book is well organized and divided into three main parts: Part I (The Statute of Anne and its role in the world of copyright), Part II (Digital libraries and online licensing), and Part III (The borderless era: international exhaustion, global administration and formalities).  Within 522 pages, key global copyright issues are covered in great detail.

Part I (Chapters 1 to 11) begins with the history of copyright and the Statute of Anne.  In the introduction to Part I, co-editor Professor Lionel Bently notes that the Statute of Anne is often characterized as the world’s first copyright Act, but he warns that this claim should be treated with caution.  He notes that the Statute of Anne wasn’t the world’s first regulation system for printing and publishing books.  Additionally, Bently reminds readers that while the Act was influential, there were significant contributions in other jurisdictions (both before and after the Act) to the worldwide development of copyright law.  This introduction sets the stage for the rest of the chapters in Part I, which outline historical research that provide insights that a strict legal analysis of contemporary legislation alone could not possibly uncover.

Part II (Chapters 12-21), starts the book’s coverage of the digital age.  Co-editor Professor Uma Suthersanen provides an introduction to digital libraries and online licensing.  As part of laying out some background thoughts for the Chapters in Part II, Suthersanen states that the zeitgeist of this and the coming centuries is that the growing power of custodians of information must be regulated (along with the power to grant access to works and to remunerate authors).  In Chapter 13, Dame Lynne J. Brindley succinctly summarizes many of the challenges that libraries now face, as they strive to rise (like the Phoenix) into new purveyors of knowledge in the Internet era.  Underpinning these strategic challenges for libraries are broader copyright, information management, cultural and public policy issues which are discussed and analyzed throughout the chapters in Part II.

Three specific themes are covered in Part III (Chapters 22-32), all relating to the “borderless era”: international exhaustion, global administration and formalities.  This third part of the book is introduced by co-editor Professor Paul Torremans, who stresses the fundamental and global nature of the issues addressed within these chapters.  Two differing perspectives on the potential benefits of copyright formalities in the digital era are offered in Chapter 29 (by Stef van Gompel) and Chapter 30 (by Jane Ginsburg). Various aspects of copyright exhaustion are covered in Chapters 23 to 27, and the contributors must be commended for providing in depth and valuable commentary on a topic that might have been treated very narrowly in the hands of others.

Global Copyright: Three Hundred Years Since the Statute of Anne, From 1709 to Cyberspace is a fascinating read and a rich reference resource.  Throughout the book, there are many cross-references to other chapters, as authors make note of intersecting discussions existing in the rest of the book.  Additional online supplementary materials for the book exist on the British Literary and Artistic Copyright Association (BLACA) website.  The website currently includes translations for several of the chapters into French and/or Spanish.  The website also hosts copies of expert responses (from 21 different jurisdictions) to a questionnaire that covered topics such as copyright history, on-line exploitation, international exhaustion, and formalities.

This book is ideal not only for legal scholars and students, but also for anyone with a desire to better understand the past, present and future challenges of copyright law and policy.