History and Development of Copyright

History and Development of Copyright

Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5214-9.ch002
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This chapter deals firstly with the history and development of copyright law internationally and secondly with Australian copyright legislation and legislative objectives. The discussion considers the meaning of copyright and, thereafter, studies the development of the copyright framework in Australia. Recent and current copyright issues, such as the parallel importing debate, are discussed, with reference to recent USA case law. Lastly, the chapter reflects on current moral rights provisions in Australian law and concludes with reference to the 2011 Hargreaves Report and possible future implications for Australian copyright law.
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In contrast to the accepted norm and belief today that copyright law exists to promote a balance between the public interest and the creator’s rights, the beginnings of copyright law germinated largely as a result of early European printers’ efforts to protect their investments. Although commercial printing started in Europe in the 15th century, it was unregulated with no protection afforded to either author or publisher. In the early 16th century, the printing industry was flourishing and competitive, with nothing preventing the copying and distribution of printed work without any regard for the rights of authors or original publishers (Armstrong, 1990, p. 21).

In British common law, the germination of copyright can be traced back to 1476 with the founding of the first printing establishment in England by Caxton and the English Crown’s efforts to regulate the revolutionary new technology (Goldstein, 2001, p. 5).

Publishers in Europe started gaining protection when, in 1507, Paris publisher Antoine Verard obtained a grant from Louis XII, which covered Verard for three years for any book he was the first to publish. Other French publishers and booksellers followed suit and applied for grants from the State or the Crown, effectively protecting their publishing rights for a certain period of time. Economic considerations were cited as the most pressing reasons for obtaining such grants. Some authors also applied for and gained grants, such as Dr Jean Falcon for Les notables sur le Guidon (CH 1515, 1A), his main argument of persuasion being his fear that any merchant or bookseller could reproduce his work unless he received protection (Armstrong, 1990, p. 80).

In the United Kingdom, copyright advances were slower due to the smaller number of printers and the fact that books were often imported from the European mainland. Again, the printing industry prompted the first legislative steps. In an attempt to prevent unregulated copying of books, Charles II enacted the Licensing Act 1662, which required ‘licensed books’ to be entered into a registry. The Government, however, allowed this Act to lapse in 1694 when it expired, due to its restrictive nature.

The issue of copyright was the concern of publishers rather than authors. Although authors were recognised as having some rights in their work, they did not have ownership of the work. Milton in Areopagitica (1644) first mentions the idea of ownership of copyright. However, his discourse was centred on publishers and not authors, and this view prevailed until late in the 18th century, despite legislative advances such as the promulgation of the British Statute of Anne in 1709 (also known as the Copyright Act of 1710).

As Saunders points out, the principal agent in the copyright field was not an individual but a corporate entity: the Stationers’ Company. The term ‘copy right’ appeared for the first time in their records in 1701, introduced in their by-laws in order to protect stationers’ ownership of printing rights (rather than reflecting any common law rights of authors) (1992, pp. 47-48).

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