History of Intellectual Property Law In 60 Seconds

history of intellectual property law

A Brief History of Intellectual Property Law

Since australopithecus africanus plodded across the Sahara, humanoids have developed ways to protect themselves and their flocks. But the protection of intellectual property — indeed, the very concept of such a thing — is a recent idea.

Copyrights didn’t exist in the days of Shakespeare, whose plays came to us via pirated quartos published without permission.

But after Gutenberg’s press hit the scene, lawmakers passed statutes granting exclusive rights to print books. The protection, however, only applied to printers, not authors.

History of Intellectual Property Law: Statute of Anne

It wasn’t until 1710, under the Statute of Anne, that officials first prohibited certain uses of another person’s intellectual property. Over the next three centuries, copyright laws spread like wildfire around the globe.

In the 1900s, International copyright treaties went into force.

Today’s Confusing Digital Copyright Laws

Early intellectual property laws have become a source of courtly confusion. New issues have arisen thanks to the Web, smartphones, and portable computer devices.

For instance, many people assume that photographs posted online are automatically in the public domain and can be used by anyone for any purpose. Not true. Online photos may be covered by copyright law no matter where they’re posted. For that reason, double-check the rights for any images you want to use. It’s also a good idea to keep a file of license owners in the event issues arise.

Contact A Digital Copyright Lawyer

As a general rule, unless you create a graphic or image, assume its copyrighted and properly credit the source.

That said, U.S. courts have ruled that using low-quality thumbnail images doesn’t constitute digital copyright infringement. Moreover, fair use standards exist.

Hope you enjoyed this brief history of copyright law. For more of our legal blog, go here.  If you need to speak with a digital copyright lawyer, contact Kelly Warner today.

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