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History of copyright

It was not until the 1709 Statute of Anne , which passed into law on 10 April 1710 that copyright in books and other writings, gained protection of an Act of Parliament. Prior to this, disputes over the rights to the publishing of books could be enforced by common law.

The scholars of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire were the first to be concerned about being recognised as the authors of their works, but they did not have any economic rights.

It was not until the invention of printing in the 15th century that a form of copyright protection came about. Until then, the copying of a manuscript was a painstakingly slow process done mainly by monks and was limited to copying religious works for orders and the royal courts of Europe. The majority of people were illiterate and only privileged members of society had access to these manuscripts.

Licensing Act 1662

The issue of piracy brought about an act to establish a register of licensed books, along with the requirement to deposit a copy of the book to be licensed.

Statute of Anne

Introduced the principle of a fixed term of protection.

International Copyright Act 1886 and the Berne Convention

In 1875 a Royal Commission suggested that the present Acts should be improved and codified.

Copyright Act 1911

This act brought provisions on copyright into one Act for the first time by revising and repealing most earlier Acts.

Universal Copyright Convention

One of the principal international conventions protecting copyright, it was adopted in Geneva in 1952.

Copyright Act 1956

This Act acknowledged further amendments to the Berne Convention and the United Kingdom's accession to the Universal Copyright Convention.

Copyright Designs and Patent Act 1988

This is the UK's current copyright act and it has been amended by EC Directives and other legislation since it came into force.