History of Copyright Law In 60 Seconds

history of copyright law

A Brief History of Copyright Law

While the protection of physical property is as old as human history, 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 have come to us from pirated quartos published without permission. And after the development of the printing press, laws were passed granting exclusive rights to print books; but this form of protection applied to printers, rather than authors.

It was not until 1710, in the history of copyright law, that officials created the first statute to prohibit certain uses of another person’s intellectual property, the Statute of Anne. And over the next three centuries, copyright laws spread like wildfire across the globe.

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

Today’s Confusing Digital Copyright Laws

Today, the very laws that were originally passed to protect infringement of intellectual property have become a source of confusion. Many folks find themselves under indictment for unwittingly violating them.

Some jurisdictions hold that making copies of copyrighted material for personal use does not constitute a violation. But new issues have popped up thanks to the Web, smartphones and other portable computer devices. For instance, many people assume that any photograph posted online is automatically in the public domain and, therefore, can be used by anyone for any purpose. But in fact, online photos may be covered by copyright law no matter where they’re posted. For that reason, double-check to make sure the rights for any images you want to use aren’t owned by someone else. It’s also a good idea to keep a file of license owners in the event an issue arises.

Contact A Digital Copyright Lawyer

As a general rule, unless you are the actual creator of an image, to play it safe, take the view that every image, article and video could be copyrighted.

That said, the U.S. courts have ruled that using low-quality thumbnail images does not 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.