Commentary on International Copyright Act 1838

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

Research output: Other contribution


Legislation providing that the British monarch could, by Order in Council, grant copyright protection, within Britain and its Dominions, to the authors of literary works first published abroad for a period specified within the Order but not exceeding the domestic copyright term. The Act provided the first occasion on which the British legislature offered the possibility of copyright protection for the work of foreign authors. Its timing is indicative of the widespread attention which the issue of international copyright had begun to attract in Britain, on the continent, and in the United States. The commentary describes the background to the legislation in relation to British attitudes to the importation of foreign works throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in the context of early nineteenth century debates before the courts as to whether the work of foreign authors was in any event protected under existing legislative measures (see also: uk_1854). The commentary also explores the reasons for the failure of the British government to successfully negotiate any bilateral agreements under the legislation, but nevertheless suggests that the 1838 Act provided an important platform upon which to build a subsequent and more successful regime of international copyright protection (see also: uk_1844; uk_1852; uk_1886).
Original languageEnglish
TypeScholarly Commentary
Media of outputOnline
PublisherUniversity of Cambridge
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Please cite as: Deazley, R. (2008) ‘Commentary on International Copyright Act 1838', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


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