In today’s world, the justification employed in support of copyright is that it enables the creator/author of a work to realize economic benefit from the same and that this acts as a motivation for further creation. This understanding is grounded in the capitalist approach to an economy, that is, goods and services command a monetary value, and their utilization is contingent on the exchange of money for the same. The origins of copyright might not necessarily be founded on this economic understanding. What relatively undisputed, however, is that the origins of copyright can be traced back to the invention of the printing press and the industrial revolution, which gave rise to greater dissemination of books and  other reading material to the general public. What remains unclear is the rationale for this introduction of copyright, and there are largely two broad schools of thought in this division. The first of these schools argues that the origins of copyright may be traced to England, and the Licensing of the Press Act, 1662; passed by Charles II after concern over the unregulated copying of books. This legislation required copies of books to be deposited with the Stationers’ Company and established a register for licensed books. This legislation, it is said, merely continued the existing system of licensing of material. The second school of thought argues that the intent behind the introduction of these reforms was not concern over the unregulated copying of books, but was to control the amount of printed matter in circulation, i.e., censorship. The Stationers’ Company was granted a monopoly over all printing in England, over old and new works. It further had the right to search and confiscate unauthorized presses and books. The licensing system required that the printing of books only follow the entry into the Register, and the entry into this Register would only be possible after clearance was obtained from the Crown censor or had been self-censored by the Stationers’ Company. The first copyright act was the Statute of Anne, 1710, of the Parliament of Great Britain. This legislation granted publishers rights over the work in question for a fixed period of time. The past few centuries have seen copyright law make significant advancements from the position expounded in the Statue of Anne. From being a staple only of the publishing industry, copyright law now transcends industries, and includes within its purview not only books and reading material, but also sound recordings, photographs, cinematographic films, software, architectural works and more.

Last modified: Monday, 19 April 2021, 12:10 PM