Copyright began in England in 1710, when the British Parliament enacted the Statute of Anne. This statute contained legal protection for consumers of copyrighted works by limiting the term of a copyright. The statute also created the concept of “public domain”, by requiring the creation of a new work in order to obtain a copyright. It also limited the length of term of a copyright, and the rights granted to the copyright owner, the latter so an author could not control use of the work after it was purchased.
Further, in 1774, the House of Lords ruled that writers do not have a perpetual copyright on their work.
Copyright law in the United States is based on the Statute of Anne. The U.S. Constitution put copyright law under the auspices of the Federal government. “The Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts . . . by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries.”
Congress subsequently enacted the Copyright Act of 1790 and major revisions to it in 1831, 1870, 1909, and 1976.
Just wondering what your 1710 ancestor thought about this whole issue.