The Statute of Anne…Authors Get Rights!

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.)

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

Today in History, November 5, 1605: …The Gunpowder treason and plot…

The Gunpowder Plot. Several Catholic conspirators had hatched a plan to blow up the Parliament building in London while the king and parliament met.

One of the conspirators told a relative not to attend, and that relative told authorities. On the night of November 5th, conspirator Guy Fawkes was caught lurking in the basement of the building, and subsequently 20 barrels of gunpowder he had hidden there were located.

Fawkes named his conspirators under torture. Several, including Fawkes, were sentenced to be drawn and quartered. As Fawkes climbed a ladder to the gallows, he jumped to his death. Today is Guy Fawkes day in England, celebrating the failure of the plot.

In recent years it seems to have become popular to don a Guy Fawkes mask to render yourself anonymous to protest anything from injustice to prices.

 The Fifth of November

Remember, remember!  
The fifth of November, 
The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
I know of no reason 
Why the Gunpowder treason 
Should ever be forgot! 
Guy Fawkes and his companions 
Did the scheme contrive, 
To blow the King and Parliament 
All up alive. 
Threescore barrels, laid below, 
To prove old England’s overthrow. 
But, by God’s providence, him they catch, 
With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
A stick and a stake  
For King James’s sake! 
If you won’t give me one, 
I’ll take two, 
The better for me, 
And the worse for you. 
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him, 
A pint of beer to wash it down, 
And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

The Roman Catholic Relief Act

Today in History, April 13: 1829 – The Roman Catholic Relief Act is passed by the English Parliament, topping of efforts at Catholic Emancipation in Britain. Irish Catholic Daniel O’Connell had won election to a seat in the Westminster Parliament the year before, but could not take his seat due to centuries old laws forbidding it. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary supported O’Connell’s efforts to overturn the laws. Their support was mostly to prevent revolt, not necessarily out of sympathy (Peel had challenged O’Connell to a duel in 1815). It took a threat of resignation by Prime Minister Wellington to gain passage in the House of Lords and Royal assent from King George IV.