On this day 244 years ago, the British House of Lords ruled that authors no longer had perpetual copyright anymore.
On February 22nd, 1774 booksellers within London were viciously attacked for “using rights of authors to mask their greed and self-interest in controlling the book trade.” However, once reaching the House of Lords in 1774, Donaldson v Beckett was out of everyone most shook due to this rejection of the common law copyright. He even went as far as warning the Lords to vote in favour of the common law copyright. Beckett also warned the Lords that booksellers would sell their books at any price they actually please, for “the public became as much their slaves, as their own hackney compilers are”. Finally declaring that “Knowledge and science are not things to be bound in such cobweb chains”
Somewhere however in the early 19th century an understanding was finally reached and authors eventually gained a “pre-existing common law copyright over their work” but, include that with the “Statute of Anne” parliament, this meant that this limited again the natural rights in order to propose a much more appropriate balance that stood between the author and the “wider social good”.
With love, Charlotte x