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Licensing Act 1662

The ability to print books easily and cheaply raised the issue of piracy. As the number of printers increased in England, the King exercised the royal prerogative to regulate the book trade and protect printers against piracy. This was the first of many decrees to control what was being printed.

It was the Licensing Act of 1662 which established a register of licensed books, along with the requirement to deposit a copy of the book to be licensed. Deposit was administered by the Stationers' Company who were given powers to seize books suspected of containing matters hostile to the Church or Government.

By 1681 the Licensing Act had been repealed and the Stationers' Company had passed a by-law that established rights of ownership for books registered to a number of its members so as to continue regulating the printing trade themselves.