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Copyright in the Texts of the Law: Historical Perspectives


Introduction
The antecedents to copyright law are full of colorful historical episodes, but few outdo the time that the Mayor of London was thrown in jail.[1] [18] In 1771, the British House of Commons initiated a campaign against several newspaper publishers, exercising an early copyright-like power to restrict publication of its speeches and debates.[2] [19] Most of the publishers acquiesced in Commons’ assertion of “parliamentary privilege,” but one, John Miller of the 
London Evening Post, had a different idea.[3] [20] Executing a plan hatched with London alderman John Wilkes, a renowned hero of freedom on both sides of the Atlantic, Miller lay in wait for Parliament’s messenger to come arrest him.[4] [21] When the messenger arrived, the Lord Mayor of London, Brass Crosby, asserted sole jurisdiction for arrests in his city and then charged the messenger with false imprisonment.[5] [22] Enraged at this act of defiance, Commons summoned Crosby to answer for his actions.[6] [23] Crosby was adjudged in breach of parliamentary privilege, and followed by a throng of Londoners cheering him on for his bravery, the Lord Mayor paraded himself into custody in the Tower of London.[7] [24]

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