Abstract - The Information Society 21(1)

Technology and Copyright in 1735: The Engravers’ Act

Mark Rose

Without printing technology there would be no need for copyright. Anglo-American copyright has its roots in early booksellers’ practices which in 1710 were incorporated into the Statute of Anne. Several decades later in 1735 the provisions of this statute were copied in a new piece of legislation for the protection of engravings. However “Hogarth’s Act” protected only those engravings which involved original designs and thus, implicitly, made a distinction between artists and mere craftsmen. Soon, however, Parliament was persuaded to extend protection to all engravings. The history of Hogarth’s Act foreshadowed the logic whereby a century later protection was extended first to special and then to ordinary photographs. Together these instances of copyright extension raise the question of to what degree similar patterns are at work in the continuing expansion of copyright today.

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