Day One - Copyright @ 300: Looking Back at the Statute of Anne and Looking Forward to Challenges of the Future

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on June 9, 2010

By Tara Wheatland, Copyright Research Fellow, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at Berkeley Law School.

On April 9-10, 2010, The Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, in partnership with the High Tech Law Institute of Santa Clara University Law School and the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, hosted a conference in Berkeley entitled Copyright @ 300: Looking Back at the Statute of Anne and Looking Forward to Challenges of the Future.  The occasion for the conference was the 300th Anniversary of the Statute of Anne, the first modern copyright law, enacted in 1710 by the English Parliament. 

The conference was an opportunity to look back at the law’s influence on the history and evolution of the Anglo-American copyright tradition, but also to look forward—to explore how the lessons from this history might help us surmount the challenges that lie ahead for copyright law in the twenty-first century.  The two-day event featured an array of copyright experts from academia, industry, private practice, government, and non-profit communities.  Eight subject-matter-specific panels were presented, and keynote addresses were given by Judge Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights at the U.S. Copyright Office.

Of note: At the event, Professor Lionel Bently of the University of Cambridge gave a special presentation about the scholarly controversy over the correct year of enactment of the Statute of Anne—a topic of great interest to the organizers of this conference, as it confirmed that 2010 is indeed the proper year for celebrating the Statute’s 300th birthday.

Read a summary of Day 2’s panels.


The Statute of Anne: An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.  The conference opened with a panel of scholars discussing the Statute of Anne itself, its contours, its origins, and its effects.  Professor Neil Netanel of the UCLA School of Law evaluated the claim that the Statute of Anne was the “first modern copyright statute” by analyzing prior and contemporaneous pre-copyright regimes in other jurisdictions.  Professor Oren Bracha of the University of Texas Law School examined the consequences of essentially transplanting the Statute of Anne into a different social, ideological, and chronological context—namely, the United States in the early 19th  century.  Professor Mark Rose of the History department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, discussed the relationship between the Statute of Anne and the emerging “public sphere” in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.  Professor Isabella Alexander, from Cambridge University, explored the role of statutory copyright law in shaping so-called “copyright industries” by looking at the effects of the Statute of Anne on the book trade, and demonstrating that the relationship between copyright law and industry is not solely a recent phenomenon.  

  • Panel mp3
  • Mitchell Zimmerman, Fenwick & West LLP (moderator)  - pdf
  • Mark Rose, University of California, Santa Barbara 
  • Neil Netanel, UCLA School of Law
  • Isabella Alexander, Cambridge University - pdf
  • Oren Bracha, University of Texas Law School - pdf

The Purposes of Copyright as They Have Evolved Over Time.  The second panel explored the evolution of the goals and purposes of copyright law, from even before the Statute of Anne, up through the present. 

Read a full summary of this panel.

Over lunch, in the Morrison & Foerster LLP - David Nelson Memorial Keynote, Hon. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals discussed the roles of Congress and the courts in shaping copyright law in the United States.  These two bodies have traded off “overruling” one another over the development of copyright law.  Both bodies will continue to deal with various challenges in coming years, including the challenges of emerging technology, statutory construction, influences of interested parties and organizations, and the international arena.

  • Keynote mp3
  • Introduction: William Schwartz, Morrison & Foerster LLP
  • Speaker: Hon. Margaret McKeown, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals - pdf

The Expansion of Copyright Subject Matter and Scope Over Time. Presenters on this panel addressed the fundamental question: what qualifies as copyrightable subject matter, and what is the scope of an owner’s rights? 

Read a full summary of this panel.

Evolving Conceptions of Authors and Owners.  Panelists next turned to a topic at the very heart of copyright law—the role of authors and owners in the copyright system.  Professor Peter Jaszi from American University Law School addressed the traditional rhetoric characterizing the Statute of Anne as a major development primarily aimed at protecting the rights of authors, concluding that whether or not this was the primary animating factor for passage of the Statute of Anne, this celebratory conception is beneficial to the copyright discourse.  Professors Lionel Bently, from the University of Cambridge, and Jane C. Ginsburg, from Columbia University Law School, discussed the termination right—the limited right of authors to terminate a transfer of ownership of rights after a period of time—tracing this doctrine through its U.K. and U.S. history.  Professor Molly Van Houweling of the UC Berkeley School of Law proposed a possible rule which would allow authors the right to revise their own works, even after alienating some or all of their copyright rights and thus being left in a position where they are otherwise unable to do so.

  • Panel mp3
  • R. Anthony Reese, UC Irvine School of Law (moderator)
  • Peter Jaszi, American University Law School
  • Lionel Bently, Cambridge University - pdf (pt1), pdf (pt2)
  • Jane C. Ginsburg, Columbia Law School - pdf
  • Molly Van Houweling, BCLT & UC Berkeley School of Law - pdf

Read a summary of Day 2’s panels.

Conference summary was written by Tara Wheatland. Ms. Wheatland is the Copyright Research Fellow, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology at Berkeley Law School.