COPYRIGHT law is in crisis. The law, as it currently stands, is considered by some to be technologically challenged, discriminatory, and overly complex; others wonder about its ability to address effectively the many challenges thrown up by the digital and internet revolutions. Both the US and the EU have responded to such concerns in the guise of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the new European Copyright Directive respectively. This time of unprecedented technological development demands a necessary reappraisal of the copyright regime; we need to ask, what should copyright law do? Should its primary concern lie with the author (the copyright owner) or with society (the copyright user)? Traditional analyses suggest that at common law the author had a natural right to print and reprint his work, but that this common law right was impeached with the passing of the Statute of Anne of 1709 in the interests of the encouragement of learning and the dissemination of ideas. In short, the pre-existing common law rights of the author were impinged upon in the interests of society. This reading of the origins of the nature of copyright first took root with the seminal decision of Donaldson v. Becket (1774). It is this orthodox analysis that the author seeks to challenge.
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