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Commentary on:
Donaldson v. Becket (1774)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

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Identifier: uk_1774

 

Commentary on Donaldson v. Becket (1774)

Ronan Deazley

School of Law, University of Birmingham, UK

 

Please cite as:
Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on Donaldson v. Becket (1774)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

 

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Five Questions about Thomson's The Seasons

4. The Opinions of the Judges

5. The Decision of the Lords

6. After Donaldson: Two Petitions for Legislation

7. The Statute of Anne Revisited

8. References

 

1. Full title

Donaldson v. Becket (1774) Hansard, 1st ser., 17 (1774): 953-1003

 

2. Abstract

The first decision of the House of Lords to address the question of copyright. This decision is generally regarded as providing a conclusion to the literary property debate of the mid-eighteenth century that affirmed the existence of copyright at common law while at the same time deciding that that natural authorial property right was nevertheless supplanted by the Statute of Anne 1710 (uk_1710).

 

The commentary explores the background to, and substance of, the case; in particular the relationship between the common law judges and the House of Lords when exercising its appellate jurisdiction, and the subsequent efforts of the book trade to secure new legislation following the decision. The commentary suggests that the traditional interpretation of the Donaldson decision is open to question. Instead, it argues that the House of Lords, in line with the majority of the law lords who spoke to the issue, rejected the argument in favour of common law copyright, but that the significance of this decision was nevertheless obscured as a result of the manner in which the opinions of the judges and the law lords was subsequently recorded and reported.

 

3. Five Questions about Thomson's The Seasons

In November 1765 counsel for the bookseller Andrew Millar (1705-1768) appeared before the Court of Chancery alleging that Robert Taylor, a printer from Berwick, had "vended and sold" copies of his copyright work The Seasons by the poet James Thomson (1700-1748). Taylor responded that, as Thomson had died in 1748, the work was no longer within the copyright term provided by the 1710 Act. Sewell MR (b.1710-1784) ordered that "a case be made for the opinion of the judges of the Court of King's Bench" as to whether "the plaintiff had at the time of filing his bill in this Court a property in the copies mentioned",[1] which referral gave rise to Millar v. Taylor.[2] Delivering the historic decision that copyright did exist at common law, Mansfield CJ (1705-1793) set out that "it is agreeable to the Principles of Right and Wrong ... and therefore to the Common Law, to protect the Copy ... after the Author has published'. Asking himself the rhetorical question why this should be so, he observed simply "[b]ecause it is just, that an Author should reap the pecuniary Profits of his own Ingenuity and Labour". Moreover, for Mansfield CJ, this turned "upon Principles before and independent" of the Statute of Anne.[3] As a result, the new Lord Chancellor Apsley (1714-1794), in July 1770, ordered Taylor to account for all the copies of The Seasons that he had sold and granted a perpetual injunction to prevent the subsequent reproduction of the work.

 

One year later Thomas Becket filed a bill in Chancery against the Scottish bookseller Alexander Donaldson (bap.1727, d.1794) praying for an injunction to prevent him from printing the same work, The Seasons,[4] upon submission of which an interlocutory injunction was granted. In 1772 the case was heard before Lord Chancellor Apsley who considered himself bound by the decision of the court in Millar and, as a result, he decreed that the injunction formerly granted be made perpetual.[5] Donaldson appealed and in January 1774 his petition was read before the House of Lords. As was the custom, whenever the House was faced with a particularly complex or difficult legal issue the twelve common law judges were ordered to attend and to proffer advice for the consideration of the peers. Once counsels' arguments had been delivered, Lord Chancellor Apsley put three questions to the judges for the consideration of the House, to which Lord Camden (1714-1794) added a further two. The five questions were as follows:

"1. Whether, at common law, an author of any book or literary composition, had the sole right of first printing and publishing the same for sale, and might bring an action against any person who printed, published, and sold the same, without his consent?

2. If the author had such right originally, did the law take it away upon his printing and publishing such book or literary composition, and might any person afterward reprint and sell, for his own benefit, such book or literary composition, against the will of the author?

3. If such action would have lain at common law, is it taken away by the Statute of 8th Anne: and is an author, by the said statute, precluded from every remedy except on the foundation of the said statute, and on the terms and conditions prescribed thereby?

4. Whether the author of any literary composition, and his assigns, had the sole right of printing and publishing the same, in perpetuity, by the common law?

5. Whether this right is any way impeached, restrained, or taken away, by the statute 8th Anne?"

While both sets of questions essentially amounted to the same thing, there does exist a fundamental difference between them, remarked upon by Patterson who noted that "analytically, the first three questions were directed to the rights of the author, the latter two to the rights of the booksellers".[6] Lord Camden, it would seem, was wary of the ease with which a common law copyright might be confirmed under the simple rubric of an author's right. Carefully stressing the place of an author's ‘assigns' and the perpetual nature of the right under discussion, his two questions covered the same ground as the Lord Chancellor's, but in a way that sought to direct the attention of the House from the author to the bookseller.

 

4. The Opinions of the Judges

Eleven of the twelve judges gave their opinions upon these five questions. (Lord Mansfield abstained on account of having already given his opinion on the matter in Millar (1769).)[7] The traditional interpretation of the judges' votes details that a large majority considered that there did exist a perpetual common law copyright (10 to 1),[8] while a smaller majority believed it had been impeached as a result of the passing of the Statute of Anne (6 to 5). However, the traditional record of the vote on the all-important third and fifth questions is incorrect. In fact a majority of the judges (6 to 5) did not consider the common law right to be compromised by the legislation. The crucial opinion in this regard was that of Nares J (1716-1786) While the majority of reports of the case suggest that Nares J decided that the common law right, after publication, was removed by the Act, it is clear that he did not actually hold this opinion;[9] rather he considered that the legislation simply operated to supplement the copyright an author had at common law.[10] However, his opinion on this point was at the time inaccurately recorded in the House and then subsequently misreported.

 

In addition to this, that ten of the judges considered that copyright subsisted at common law is not entirely accurate, either; rather, four judges expressly rejected any such notion: Eyre J (bap. 1734, d.1799), Perrott B (1710-1780), Adams B (1709/10-1774), and De Grey CJ (1719-1781).[11] The reason for this particular confusion lies in the fact that the Lord Chancellor's first question, as to whether an author had the "right of first printing and publishing" his work at common law, can be read in two different ways. The first presupposes the existence of copyright, as an intangible property right, at common law - that is, a right to publish and re-publish one's work to the exclusion of all others. The second, however, relates to the existence of a right at common law which flows from the ownership of the physical object, the manuscript - in this case, a right of first publication (in essence, a right to divulge) and nothing more. In failing to pay attention to this distinction, various writers have misunderstood and misreported the way in which three of the judges, Perrott, Adams BB and Lord Chief Justice De Grey, approached the issue.[12] However, of importance for the moment is that in the House of Lords a majority of the judges (seven) had acknowledged the existence of a common law copyright and that a majority of those judges (six) considered this common law right pre-eminent over the Statute of Anne.

 

5. The Decision of the Lords

The House of Lords was nonetheless not bound to follow the opinion of the majority of the judges and although in practice it almost always chose to do so, this case proved to be one of the exceptions to the rule. The day after the judges had finished delivering their opinions to the House, five further peers spoke to the issue. Of these five, only Lord Lyttleton spoke in favour of the common law right. The others, the Bishop of Carlisle, and Lords Howard, Apsley and Camden, all spoke against it. Lord Camden proved the most strident in his rejection of the common law right. Dismissing the "whole bread-roll of citations and precedents" that had been relied upon in support of the common law right as a "heterogeneous heap of rubbish, which is only calculated to confound your lordships, and mislead the argument", he expounded upon two pertinent themes.

 

The first turned on the sovereignty of Parliament, and the relationship between the legislature, the common law and the judiciary. He reminded the judiciary that "[t]heir business is to tell the suitor how the law stands, not how it ought to be"; "otherwise", he continued, "each judge would have a distinct tribunal in his own breast" and "[c]aprice, self-interest, [and] vanity would by turns hold the scale of justice" while "the law of property' would be ‘indeed most vague and arbitrary".[13]

 

His second concern was that of the bookseller. With his additional two questions he had sought to shift the focus of the House away from the rights of the author, to the consequences of such rights existing in a bookseller (the author's assign) in perpetuity. He reminded the peers that "the common law right now claimed at your bar is the right of a private man to print his works for ever, independent of ... all mankind".[14] Should the Lords vote in favour of the perpetual right, he warned, "[a]ll our learning will be locked up in the hands of the Tonsons and the Lintots of the age". Moreover, the booksellers, these "engrossers", would then set upon books whatever price "their avarice chuses to demand, till the public became as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are". The notion of a right at common law was to Lord Camden "as odious and selfish as any other, it deserves as much reprobation, and will become as intolerable". "Knowledge and science" he declared "are not things to be bound in such cobweb chains".[15]

 

And so, sixteen opinions had been delivered for the consideration of the peers, the last five of which had been expounded upon the day of the vote itself. Concerning Lord Camden's fourth question as to the existence of copyright at common law, eight of those opinions endorsed the existence of such a right (seven judges and one peer)[16] while eight had rejected the notion (four judges and four peers).[17] However, while five questions had been put to the judges, only one question was put to the peers: should the perpetual injunction previously granted by Lord Chancellor Apsley be overturned? This question approximated most closely to a choice between a perpetual common law right and the time-limited Statute of Anne. The Lords, in finding for the defendant, opted for the latter.

 

And yet, the nature and substance of this single vote failed to address the issue as to whether the Act had simply created a new property right in printing books, or whether it had abrogated a pre-existing common law copyright; the decision to reverse the Lord Chancellor's decree said nothing of this. However, while the actual vote of the peers did not speak directly to this issue, Lord Chancellor Apsley had addressed it and, as Abrams observes, while "the judicial statements were only advisory", "the Lords' statements were the law of the case".[18] This was the Lord Chancellor who "entered into a minute discussion of the several citations and precedents that had been relied upon at the Bar", who "proved that they were foreign to any constructions which could support the Respondents", who "very fully stated the several cases of injunctions in the Court of Chancery", and who "gave an historical detail of all the proceedings in both Houses upon the several stages" of the Statute of Anne "all tending to shew the sense of the legislature, at the time of passing it, to be against the right".[19] That is, Lord Chancellor Apsley, like Lord Camden, explicitly denied the existence of any common law right, ab initio, and it was this position that the majority of the peers embraced.

 

6. After Donaldson: Two Petitions for Legislation

That the House of Lords rejected the existence of the common law right, contrary to the sentiments of the majority of the common law judges, is apparent in the language and success (or lack thereof) of two petitions for legislation that followed in the wake of the decision, the first coming from the London booksellers, the second, from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Six days after the decision the booksellers petitioned the Commons complaining that they "had constantly apprehended, that the [Statute of Anne] did not interfere with any copy-right that might be invested in [them] by the common law". "[B]y a late solemn decision of the House of Peers" they continued "such common law right of authors and their assigns hath been declared to have no existence, whereby your petitioners will be very great sufferers thro' their involuntary misapprehension of the law".[20] The petition was referred to a committee for examination and, on 24 March 1774, leave was given in the Commons to bring in a Bill for the Relief of Booksellers.[21] Following this decision a number of other petitions were presented before the House. The booksellers of Edinburgh claimed that "the special indulgance prayed for by the London booksellers" would be highly injurious to everyone concerned in "Bookselling, the Paper manufacture, the Art of printing, and other Branches therewith connected". Acknowledging that the Scottish book trade was primarily concerned with "re-printing English books" when the terms of the 1710 Act permitted it, they declared that extending the monopoly requested by the London booksellers would "be the ruin of many families in Scotland" as well as being "prejudicial to the community at large".[22] Similar sentiments were expressed by other booksellers from London, Westminster, Glasgow and York, each decrying the deleterious consequences of the proposed Bill.[23]

 

Not surprisingly, Alexander Donaldson himself did not remain silent. He delivered a petition referring to the decision he had secured before the Lords and expressed his alarm at seeing it "ready to be snatched out of his hands by the very people who have been hitherto guilty of oppression". Should the Bill pass into law it would be "to the great detriment of the publick, to the injury of letters, and to the utter ruin of inferior booksellers both in town and country". Rejecting the "pretence of hardship" claimed by the London booksellers as "without foundation", he prayed to the House "that the statute of Queen Anne, which was expressly made for the encouragement of learning, may not now be altered or suspended, for the encouragement of the London booksellers only".[24] These subsequent petitions fell on deaf ears. In March 1774 a Bill was presented to and passed through the Commons, the Preamble to which, like the booksellers' original petition, set out that it had "lately been adjudged in the House of Lords that no such copy right in authors or their assigns doth exist at common law".[25] Without drawing any distinction between works in which copyright had expired, or works in which copyright under the 1710 Act currently subsisted, this Bill simply provided that any author (or his assign) who had already printed and published his work, should, from 4 June 1774, "have the sole and exclusive liberty of printing such book ... for the term of fourteen years ... and no longer".[26] The Bill, however, was stalled in the upper chamber until the end of the parliamentary session; once again, the House of Lords had been the undoing of the London booksellers.

 

As noted above the London monopolists were not the only interested parties concerned by the decision in Donaldson. Carter writes that "[a]s soon as the House of Lords decided in 1774 that no subject had a perpetual copyright in a published work ... the Universities took steps to secure exceptional treatment".[27] In April 1775 leave was given, again in the Commons, for Lord North, then Chancellor of Oxford University, to prepare and bring in a Bill for enabling the Two Universities to hold in Perpetuity the Copy Right in books, for the advancement of useful Learning, and other purposes of Education, within the said Universities.[28] North presented the Bill, steered it through the Commons, and brought it before the Lords in less than three weeks.[29] After only eight days before the Lords, the Universities Act received the Royal Assent,[30] granting the universities a perpetual right to reprint "all such books as shall at any time heretofore have been ... bequeathed or otherwise given [to them] by the Author" in order that the selling of such works would contribute to the generation of revenues "for the Advancement of Learning, and other beneficial Purposes of Education within the said Universities and Colleges".[31] In little over a month, the universities had secured what the London booksellers had unsuccessfully pursued for over thirty years.

 

That Parliament should sanction the granting of a statutory perpetual copyright in certain books was not itself considered problematic. What mattered, to the House of Lords at least, was who had control over these perpetual privileges and why. When those in control were the universities, and when the revenues they generated were to be directed towards the advancement of those educational establishments (in theory at least), then both parliamentary chambers could agree that a perpetual statutory copyright, framed in such terms, was not such a controversial prospect. Indeed, the Act specifically provided that should either university sell any of these perpetual copyrights on, then all privileges granted therein were to be revoked.[32] In this sense, the Statute of Anne and the Universities Act stand as twin pillars: both concerned the copyright in printed books, and both were secured on the strength of the social impact that each would have; both were fundamentally concerned with the advancement of education and learning within Great Britain; and both supported the continued production of socially useful books. With the Statute of Anne a necessary, if finite, bargain had been struck between the author and the bookseller; with the Universities Act a useful, non-finite, source of revenue was provided for the support of two of the country's most prestigious seats of learning. Two contrasting measures directed toward the same end.

 

7. The Statute of Anne Revisited

The success of the university lobby in 1775, the failure of the London booksellers to secure further legislation in 1774, as well as the language and tone of the legislation that was proffered on behalf of the booksellers, all reinforce the fact that, regardless of the wealth of argument and counter-argument which had been expounded as to the nature of copyright in the thirty years leading up to the House of Lords' decision, Donaldson turned primarily upon the same basic impulses that underscored both the Statute of Anne and the Universities Act 1775. In Donaldson the House of Lords understood the copyright regime, first and foremost, as addressing the broader interests of society. A purely statutory phenomenon, copyright was fundamentally concerned with the reading public, with the encouragement and spread of education, and with the continued production of useful books. In deciding the case as they did, these eighteenth century parliamentarians did not primarily seek to advance the rights of the individual author. Rather, explicitly denying the existence of a common law copyright, they acted in the furtherance of much broader social goals and principles. The pre-eminence of the common good as the organising principle upon which to found a statutory system of copyright regulation was championed, while the notion of an authorial copyright at common law had been declared not to exist.

 

That the House of Lords in Donaldson rejected the existence of any common law right is not, however, how that decision is popularly portrayed or understood. In the most recent edition of Copinger and Skone James on Copyright, Garnett, Rayner James and Davies write that in Millar "[t]he Court held that there was a common law right of an author to his copy stemming from the act of creation and that that right was not taken away by the Statute of Anne".[33] They continue:

"The decision was finally overturned, however, by the House of Lords in Donaldson v. Beckett in 1774, a case which decided that copyright was the deliberate creation of the Statute of Anne and thereafter treated as statutory property. Thus, the effect of the Statute of Anne was to extinguish the common law copyright in published works, while leaving the common law copyright in unpublished works unaffected."[34]

Fundamental to this and other similar readings is the understanding that authors had a pre-existing copyright at common law over their work, and that by using the 1710 Act to limiting these natural rights, parliament sought to strike a more appropriate balance between the interests of the author and the wider social good, in that to allow the author's rights to run in perpetuity would hamper the free circulation of literature, knowledge and ideas.

 

Such is the common perception of the balancing act that is copyright regulation. It is this perception that has informed most of what has followed in the wake of Donaldson. However, because of the nature of the single vote in the appeals process to the House of Lords, because of the lack of attention that the speeches of the individual lords themselves have attracted, because of the emphasis that has been placed upon the eleven judicial opinions delivered to the House, and because of the misreporting of key aspects of those opinions, the effect of Donaldson has been marked. Donaldson provided a conclusion to the eighteenth century debate concerning the existence of copyright at common law that has mislead judges, practitioners and academics alike for over 200 years. When the peers voted in favour of reversing the earlier decree, they were voting against a perpetual right, but, regardless of their actual intention, their vote has been taken to correspond with the (mis)reported opinion of the majority of the speaking judges. It quickly becomes clear why the opinions of the eleven speaking judges bear so much importance. It is not because they were decisive of the issue in Donaldson, but because they were later believed to represent an accurate summary of the collective opinion of the House itself. Ultimately, what has been taken from Donaldson is that there did exist a perpetual common law copyright, which right was not lost upon publication of an author's work, but which was, on publication, prescribed by the Statute of Anne. With the reversal of the Lord Chancellor's decree, the myth of a perpetual common law copyright in the author's unpublished manuscript was created, albeit by default.

 

8. References

Government papers and legislation

Statute of Anne, 1710, 8 Anne, c.19

Universities Act 1775, 15 Geo.III, c.53

Cases

Donaldson v. Becket (1774) 4 Burr. 2408

Millar v. Taylor (1769) 4 Burr. 2303

 

Books and articles

Abrams, H., "The Historic Foundation of American Copyright Law: Exploding the Myth of Common Law Copyright", Wayne Law Review, 29 (1983): 1119-1191

Carter, H., A History of the Oxford University Press, Vol.1, to the year 1780 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975)

Deazley, R., On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth Century Britain, 1695-1775 (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004)

Garnett, K., Davies, G., and Harbottle, G., eds., Copinger and Skone James on Copyright, 15th ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2005)

Patterson, L.R., Copyright in Historical Perspective (Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 1968)

Parks, S., ed., The Literary Property Debate: Six Tracts, 1764-1774 (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1975)

Rose, M., Authors and Owners. The Invention of Copyright (London: Harvard University Press, 1993)

Whicher, J., "The Ghost of Donaldson v Beckett: An Inquiry into the Constitutional Distribution of Powers over the Law of Literary Property in the United States - Part 1", Copyright Society of the USA, 9 (1961-62): 102-51, 194-229



[1] The National Archives (NA), c.33 426/68.

[2] Millar v. Taylor (1769) 4 Burr. 2303.

[3] Millar v. Taylor, 2398. The decision in Millar however was not unanimous; indeed this was the first occasion on which there was disagreement amongst the judges on the King's Bench upon any given issue. Of the other judges who spoke to the issue, Willes and Aston JJ were in agreement with Mansfield CJ, while Yates J provided the dissenting opinion. Yates J found it impossible to accept that a right could accrue to an author in perpetuity and considered it essential to keep in mind the consequences which "the publick will feel, if this claim should be established". He concluded: "[I]t is equally my duty, not only as a judge, but as a member of society, and even as a friend to the cause of learning, to support the limitations of the [Statute of Anne]"; ibid., 2395. In general, see: uk_1769.

[4] Following Millar's death, Becket and others had purchased his rights in Thomson's work.

[5] See Donaldson v. Becket (1774) 2 Bro. P.C. 129.

[6] L.R. Patterson, Copyright in Historical Perspective (Nashville: Vanderbilt University, 1968), 176.

[7] There are six sources of information about the votes and the decision of the Lords: there are two records of Donaldson v. Becket (1774) in the traditional law reports: 4 Burr. 2408, and 2 Bro. P.C. 129; two further accounts can be found in the Journal of the House of Lords (LJ), 34: 12-32, as well as Hansard, 1st ser., 17 (1774): 953-1003; finally there were two contemporary pamphlets printed at the time of the decision, The Pleadings of the Counsel before the House of Lords in the great Cause concerning Literary Property (1774) and an account to which Notes and Observations and References by a Gentleman of the Inner Temple were added, both of which are reprinted in S. Parks, ed., The Literary Property Debate: Six Tracts, 1764-1774 (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1975).

[8] This is sometimes represented as an 8 to 3 vote; see for example J. Whicher, "The Ghost of Donaldson v Beckett: An Inquiry into the Constitutional Distribution of Powers over the Law of Literary Property in the United States - Part 1", Copyright Society of the USA, 9 (1961-62): 102-51, 194-229 (128).

[9] See: H. Abrams, "The Historic Foundation of American Copyright Law: Exploding the Myth of Common Law Copyright", Wayne Law Review, 29 (1983): 1119-1191 (1119); M. Rose, Authors and Owners. The Invention of Copyright (London: Harvard University Press, 1993); R. Deazley, On the Origin of the Right to Copy: Charting the Movement of Copyright Law in Eighteenth Century Britain, 1695-1775 (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2004). The judges in the majority on this point were: Nares, Ashurst, Blackstone, Willes, Aston JJ and Smythe CB; those in the minority were: Eyre, Gould JJ, Perrott, Adams BB and De Grey CJ.

[10] The report in Hansard notes that "[Nares] stated to the House why he thought a common law right in literary property did exist, and why the statute of Anne did not take it away" and yet records a vote of "yes" for the third question; Hansard, 1st ser., 17 (1774): 975. The Gentleman's report cites Nares J as commenting that "as it is admitted on all Hands that an author has a beneficial Interest in his own manuscript before Publication, it is a most extraordinary circumstance, that he shall lose that beneficial interest, the very moment he attempts to exercise it. The Statute my Lords, does not take away the common law remedy, although it gives an additional one"; Anon., Gentleman's, 35. In addition to the speeches of the judges themselves, Rose also provides evidence of contemporary newspaper reports which indicate that Nares in fact voted "no" to the crucial third question; Rose, 154-58.

[11] In general see Deazley, Chapter 8.

[12] Perrott and Adams BB. are often represented as having expressed that opinion that there existed a "qualified common law copyright"; this however is not the case. What they did recognise was that an author had certain rights over his physical manuscript which incorporated the right to decide whether to publish the manuscript or not; in Perrott B's words: "An author certainly had a right to his manuscript: he might line his trunk with it, or he might print it. After publication any man might do the same ... if a manuscript was surreptitiously obtained, an action at common law would certainly lie for the corporeal part of it, the paper. So if a friend to whom it is lent, or a person who finds it, multiplies copies, having surrendered the original manuscript, he hath surrendered all that the author has any common law right to claim"; Hansard, 1st ser., 17 (1774): 981-82. As for Lord DeGrey, he acknowledged that "[w]ith respect to the first question, there can be no doubt that an author has the sole right to dispose of his manuscript as he thinks proper; it is his property, and till he parts with it, he can maintain an action of trover, trespass, or upon the case of any man who shall convert that property to his own use", but continued that "the right now claimed at the bar, is not a title to the manuscript, but to something after the owner has parted with, or published his manuscript; to some interest in right of authorship, to more than the materials or manuscript on which his thoughts are displayed, which is termed Literary Property ... which right is the subject of the second question proposed to us"; ibid., 988. That is, in answering this first question DeGrey CJ was not addressing the issue as whether or not copyright exists at common law, but was simply asserting that everyone has certain rights which flow from the fact of ownership of the physical manuscript; not a case of a common law copyright, but rather common law rights over your copy. Lord DeGrey, like Perrott, Adams BB, and Eyre J, comprehensively rejected any idea of copyright at common law.

[13] Hansard, 1st ser., 17 (1774): 998-99.

[14] Ibid., 994.

[15] Ibid., 999-1001.

[16] That is: Nares, Ashurst, Blackstone, Willes, Aston, Gould JJ, Smythe CB and Lord Lyttleton.

[17] That is: Eyre J, Perrott and Adams BB, De Grey CJ, the Bishop of Carlisle, and Lords Howard, Apsley and Camden.

[18] Abrams, 1169.

[19] Anon., Pleadings, 35.

[20] Journal of the House of Commons (CJ), 34: 513; emphasis added.

[21] CJ, 34: 588-590.

[22] CJ, 34: 665-66.

[23] CJ, 34: 668, 698.

[24] CJ, 34: 679.

[25] Emphasis added.

[26] An Act for Relief of Booksellers and others, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Purchasers of such Copies from Authors, or their Assigns, for a limited Time.

[27] H. Carter, A History of the Oxford University Press, Vol.1, to the year 1780 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), 367.

[28] CJ, 35: 299.

[29] CJ, 35: 340, 351, 370, 373.

[30] Universities Act 1775, 15 Geo.III, c.53.

[31] Preamble, s.1.

[32] s.3.

[33] K. Garnett, G. Davies, and G. Harbottle, ed., Copinger and Skone James on Copyright, 15th edn (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2005), para. 2-17.

[34] Ibid.



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