The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries
DMG Roundtable 2024: 'The Battle of the Booksellers' - 27 February 2024

DMG Roundtable 2024: 'The Battle of the Booksellers' - 27 February 2024

Tuesday, 27 February 2024
Digital Media

Open event (non-members may book to attend)

6.30 PM Drinks and Networking
7.00 PM Welcome - Tony Mash, Master Stationer followed by Presentations and discussions
8.30 PM Buffet, Drinks and networking
9.30 PM Event Ends

£40 In-Person
£15 Virtual

The Stationers’ Company played a pivotal role in the enactment of the world’s first copyright legislation in 1710 which is known simply as ‘the Statute of Anne’. Yet, the case of Donaldson v Beckett (1774) was a significant landmark in the protection of literary works and equally deserving of attention as we reach its 250th anniversary.

Although the new copyright act provided a monopoly for up to 28 years, London’s publishers then faced unwelcome competition from Scottish printers, whose trade was largely built upon the re-printing English books, once the statutory protection expired. A thirty-year campaign of litigation ensued – the ‘Battle of the Booksellers’. The London publishers seemed to have triumphed. They persuaded the English courts that the fixed term protection of the Statue of Anne merely supplemented the perpetual ‘common law’ protection that a first publisher already enjoyed. The copyright legislation could have become an irrelevance, but then Donaldson v Beckett turned the tide.

Following a hearing in February 1774, the House of Lords ruled that a Scottish printer, Alexander Donaldson, was entitled to print James Thomson’s The Seasons without requiring Beckett’s permission. The Lords put paid to any notion of ‘common law’ rights in published works. In doing so, they not only underlined that copyright protection is entirely a creature of statute but reminded that its rationale was not to further the commercial interests of publishers (or even authors) but to reflect broader societal goals, such as the ‘encouragement of learning’.

Now, 250 years later, have these lesson been forgotten? The term and scope of copyright protect seems to increase with each new piece of legislation. Have we returned to 'perpetual' copyright again in all but name? While the battles between booksellers may now be confined to history, the debate as to the proper balance between copyright holders and users is far from over. Technological developments continue to place the current law under strain. As the UKIPO consults on how much unauthorised 'text and data mining' copyright holders must tolerate, AI is only one in a long line of threats that now publishers face.

To mark the historic anniversary of Donaldson v Beckett, The Stationers’ Company has joined forces with the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law to assemble a distinguished panel. They will reflect on Donaldson, and debate how much, or perhaps how little, the copyright challenges for publishers have changed. 

Join us at Stationers’ Hall for a lively discussion and networking over drinks and a buffet.

The debate will be chaired by The Right Hon. Professor Sir Robin Jacob.

The Rt Hon Professor Sir Robin Jacob (pictured top left) is the Sir Hugh Laddie Chair of Intellectual Property (IP) Law at UCL and Director of the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law (IBIL). Having read Natural Sciences at Trinity College Cambridge, Sir Robin read for the Bar while simultaneously taking an LLB at the LSE. He was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1965, and then practiced at the IP Bar from 1967, being appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 1981. Sir Robin was appointed to the Bench in 1993, and was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2003, where he regularly sat at on both IP and commercial cases. He formally retired from the Court of Appeal in May 2011 to take up his current appointment, continuing to sit from time to time in the Court of Appeal until April 2016.

Sir Robin is not only a regular contributor to student IP classes and seminars at UCL, he is also President of the Association of Law Teachers and a co-author of the Guidebook to Intellectual Property since its third edition. He is an Hon. Fellow of both the LSE and St Peter’s College, Oxford, an Hon. LID of the University of Wolverhampton, and also President of the Intellectual Property Judges’ Association (the association of European IP, particularly patent, judges). He was Chairman of the Advisory Panel on the Selection and Training of Judges for the Unitary Patent Court until the UK withdrew from the project.

Professor Hector MacQueen CBE (pictured top right) obtained his LLB and PhD at the University of Edinburgh, before becoming a member of staff at the Law School staff in 1979. He was appointed to the Chair of Private Law in 1994, served as Dean of the Law School between 1999-2003, and then Deputy Head of the College of Humanities and Social Science until 2008. Professor MacQueen then served as a Scottish Law Commissioner before returning to the Law School in  2017. He retired in 2021 and became Emeritus Professor of Private Law, but continues to teach on some undergraduate courses.

Professor MacQueen has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh since 1995 and a Fellow of the British Academy since 2006. He chaired the Law section of the Academy 2016-2020, and is also a cross-member in Medieval Studies. Professor MacQueen was President of the Society of Legal Scholars 2012-2013 and Vice-President (Humanities) of the RSE 2008-2011. As well as writing the 1989 centenary history of Heriots Cricket Club - a work enthusiastically reviewed by no less than Alexander McCall Smith in chapter 6 of his novel, Love Over Scotland (2006) – he received the CBE for services to legal scholarship in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June 2019.

Catriona MacLeod Stevenson (pictured bottom right) is General Counsel at the Publishers Association. With over 15 years’ experience, Catriona is a member of the PA’s senior management team, provides advice to its board and leads its legal and content protection and enforcement functions. Before joining the publishing industry, Catriona was senior advisor to the recorded music industry’s global trade association, IFPI, and a successful IP litigator at Bristows LLP.

Catriona sits on the International Publishers Association’s Copyright Committee and Copyright Policy Working Group, as well as the British Copyright Council’s Copyright Technology Working Group and AIPPI’s Copyright Committee. Catriona has participated in WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights and Advisory Committee on Enforcement. She is also a member of the IPO’s Research Expert Advisory Committee and the UK IP Crime Group and has close connections with the City of London Police IP Crime Unit (PIPCU).

Jaani Riordan (pictured bottom left)is a Stationer and a barrister at 8 New Square Chambers. He has a technical background in computer science, being awarded both a Batchelor of Computer Science (Artificial Intelligence) and a Bachelor of Laws by the University of Melbourne, as well as receiving a PhD in intellectual property law from the University of Oxford.

Jaani practises in all areas of intellectual property and technology litigation, with particular expertise in disputes involving the Internet, computers and telecommunications. He has also represented clients in disputes involving copyright and databases. Jaani appears regularly as sole and junior counsel in the High Court and Court of Appeal, and has appeared in the leading case on website blocking injunctions in the Supreme Court. He is author of The Liability of Internet Intermediaries (2016, Oxford University Press) and was a contributing author to Laddie, Prescott and Vitoria: The Modern Law of Copyright (5th ed, 2018).

About the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law

Professor Sir Hugh Laddie was a leading English judge and academic in the field of intellectual property law. He had a formidable international reputation and did much to shape IP law, both in the UK and overseas. When Sir Hugh retired from the bench in 2005, he was appointed Professor of Intellectual Property Law at UCL and went on to found the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law (IBIL) in 2007.

IBIL was established with a distinctive objective: not only to undertake first class academic research, but also to pay attention to the practical application of intellectual property law and to the interests of IP practitioners in this field. Following his untimely death in November 2008, UCL established an academic Chair in his memory. Professor Sir Robin Jacob is the inaugural holder of the Sir Hugh Laddie Chair in Intellectual Property Law, and Director of the UCL Institute of Brand and Innovation Law.

Since its foundation, IBIL has provided a unique forum for academics, the judiciary, policymakers, the professions and users of the IP system to come together and exchange ideas on cutting-edge IP issues. IBIL runs a serious program of events at the highest level, including seminars, public lectures, conferences, workshops on all aspects of IP. It also operates an acclaimed CPD programme and UCL Laws has become home to a vibrant IP PhD community, supported by IBIL-funded PhD scholarships.