Commentary on Gyles v. Wilcox (1741)

Ronan Deazley, Lionel Bently (Editor), Martin Kretschmer (Editor)

Research output: Other contribution


Case in which Lord Hardwicke introduces the concept of the ‘fair abridgement', and which is generally regarded as the forerunner to the broader doctrine of ‘fair use' developed in the courts throughout the nineteenth century. The document includes two different reports of the decision, as well as an essay by Samuel Johnson on the right to abridge an author's work.
The commentary describes the background to the case, in particular the nature of periodical publication throughout the eighteenth century, the rise of the magazine format in the 1730s, as well as relevant case-law both prior to, and following, the decision. The commentary suggests that while the decision in Gyles can be understood as one guided by public interest arguments similar to those informing the rationale behind the Statute of Anne 1710 (that is, the encouragement of learning and production of useful books) (uk_1710), it can equally be regarded as one in which the court, in effect, expanded the rights of the copyright owner beyond the protections provided by the legislation.
Original languageEnglish
TypeScholarly Commentary
Media of outputOnline
PublisherUniversity of Cambridge
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Please cite as: Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on Gyles v. Wilcox (1741)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


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