Today in History, April 10, 1710:
The Statute of Anne. The English Parliament passes the first statute awarding authors rights of copy.
Prior to this act, what little rights or restrictions on copying books and other works that existed in England protected the Stationer’s Company, and was enforced by the company.
With the Statute of Anne, the government enforced the rules, and gave the original author rights to copy their work for 14 years, after which they could obtain another 14. After the 28 years lapsed, the work defaulted to the public domain.
Much as we have seen with internet hijacking of artist’s work today, author’s work was being reproduced in poor or changed quality, taking away creative incentive. The Statute of Anne was revolutionary in publishing.
Other nations followed suit in the coming years (America in 1790). In 1886 the Berne Convention in Switzerland led to an agreement among several nations to recognize each other’s copyrights. The US would not join until 1986 (according to Britannica.)