The following timeline represents a presentation to students as an intro to the establishment and evolution of copyright in the United States. It shows that our laws have been influenced by international developments of rights for authors, as well as the development of new technology. Deeper questions for students to consider: How does (or doesn’t?) copyright protect the interests of authors and creators? Who benefits from copyright today?
Significance at each step:
1-The Statute of Anne was heavily backed by Stationers who were given power to “seize offending books”, however they were primarily motivated by money and would follow directions of whoever gave them money (primarily the government or Church). Eventually their power was taken away, and the idea of giving rights to authors was a way that they could get back in the business of making money off the authors.
2-This is significant because it provided motivation to James Madison to promote copyright among the founding fathers, in an effort to protect author’s work in the entire nation. The argument would be that without a united copyright front, publishers could capitalize on authors works in other states than their own.
3-Rights for authors and inventors in their “writings and discoveries”
4-This act provided rights to US citizens only, thus many authors in Great Britain had their works pirated in the United States. Ironically, the Act was modeled after Britain’s Statute of Anne.
5&7-Signs of the changing times and advancing technology, thus a rise of demand for more “inventors/authors” rights to be protected.
6- Berne convention established a united copyright front across many European countries. This helped cut down publishers from different countries from the authors from capitalizing on their work. It also gave rights for the life of the author, and took into consideration the ability to pass those rights on to future generations (2).
8&9- US adopts longer copyright limits to keep up with those established internationally, and longer life expectancy. This is also significant because of the US has increased it’s media interests and cultural power since it first established copyright law. It reflects it’s desire to protect US interests on the world-wide stage.
- Copyright Basics
- A History of Copyright
- The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World