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Statute of Anne

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The Statute of Anne[1] was the first copyright law in the Kingdom of Great Britain (thus the United Kingdom), enacted in 1709 and entering into force on April 10, 1710. It is generally considered to be the first fully-fledged copyright law. It is named for Queen Anne, during whose reign it was enacted.

The Statute replaced the monopoly enjoyed by the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers (Stationer's Company) granted in 1557 during the reign of Mary I which, after several renewals, expired in 1695. Under this regime, company members would buy manuscripts from authors but once purchased, would have a perpetual monopoly on the printing of the work. Authors themselves were excluded from membership in the company and could not therefore legally self-publish, nor were they given royalties for books that sold well.

The statute of Anne vested authors rather than printers with the monopoly on the reproduction of their works. It created a 21 year term for all works already in print at the time of its enactment and a fourteen year term for all works published subsequently. It also required that printers provide nine copies to the Stationer's Company for distribution to the Royal Library, the libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Sion College and the Faculty of Advocates library in Edinburgh. When Ireland united with Great Britain in 1801, Trinity College and King's Inns in Dublin were added as two further depositories.

The Act was repealed by section 1 of the Copyright Act 1842 (c.45). The current law governing U.K. copyright is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


  1. Short title Copyright Act 1709, 8 Anne c.19; long title "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."

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