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Queen Anne's Statute: The birth of copyright

The Statute of Queen Anne: A milestone in copyright. Learn how this historic law granted creators exclusive rights, shaping today's intellectual property laws.


Copyright is a fundamental part of intellectual creation and the protection of original works. Over the years, intellectual property laws have evolved to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world. However, Queen Anne's Statute, enacted in England in 1710, marks a key moment in the history of copyright. In this article, we will look at the significance of the Statute of Queen Anne and how it laid the foundations for today's intellectual property laws.

The Statute of Queen Anne: A milestone in copyright protection

The Statute of Queen Anne, also known as "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning", was the first law to grant copyright to creators of literary works in the UK. Prior to this act, the protection and control of printed works was in the hands of the Stationers' Company, a guild of printers and booksellers who had a monopoly on the production and sale of books in England.

Queen Anne's Statute addressed this situation by granting authors of first published works the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute their works for a period of 14 years, with the possibility of renewing these rights for a further 14 years if the author was still alive. In this way, authors were empowered and given an economic incentive to create and share their works with the public.

Key features of the Queen Anne's Statute

Exclusive rights for authors

The Queen Anne Statute gave authors exclusive rights to their works, allowing them to control the reproduction and distribution of their creations. This laid the foundations for modern copyright, which protects creative work and allows creators to benefit financially from their works.

Limited duration of rights

The law set a time limit on copyright, granting protection for a period of 14 years, with the possibility of renewal for a further 14 years. This ensured a balance between the rights of authors and the public interest in access to works.

Focus on printed works

The Queen Anne Statute focused on protecting printed literary works, such as books and pamphlets. Although intellectual property laws have since expanded to include other forms of expression, such as music, art and software, the Queen Anne Statute laid the foundation for the protection of intellectual creation in print.

Incentive for learning and innovation

The Act aimed to encourage learning and innovation by providing authors with an economic incentive to create and share their knowledge. By ensuring that authors could profit from their works, the Queen Anne's Statute contributed to the development of science, literature and the arts in society.

The legacy of the Statute of Queen Anne today

Although the Statute of Queen Anne was enacted more than three centuries ago, its impact on intellectual property and copyright law is still relevant today. Over the years, copyright laws have expanded and adapted to include new forms of expression and media, but the basic principle of protecting and encouraging intellectual creation remains fundamental.

The Queen Anne Statute was a model for other nations in developing their own copyright laws. For example, in the United States, the 1787 Constitution included a provision giving Congress the power to enact copyright laws, resulting in the first federal copyright law in 1790. Similarly, other countries have followed suit, establishing legal systems to protect the rights of creators and encourage innovation and cultural progress.


The Queen Anne Statute was a crucial step in the evolution of copyright and intellectual property protection. By granting authors exclusive rights to their works, the law encouraged innovation and learning, while laying the foundation for today's intellectual property laws. Although much time has passed since its enactment, the legacy of the Queen Anne Statute continues to influence our understanding and approach to copyright today.

Statute of Anne

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Author Gabriel Espinoza

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