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Genesis of Copyright!!
Trademarkclick .com 28 Jul 2017

Genesis of Copyright!!

In today’s era almost every nation has its own copyright law in place and is mostly standardized to some extent through various international and regional agreements. But when we look back, we realize that the Copyright law has a unique history.

The earliest copyright case is traced back to Ireland, where there was a dispute over the ownership of the Irish manuscript Cathach. The Cathach is the oldest extant Irish manuscript of the Psalter. It contains a Vulgate version of Psalms XXX (10) to CV (13) with an interpretative rubric or heading before each psalm. It is traditionally ascribed to Saint Columba as the copy, made at night in haste by a miraculous light, of a Psalter lent to Columba by St. Finnian. A dispute arose about the ownership of the copy and King Diarmait Mac Cerbhaill gave the judgment, “To every cow belongs her calf; therefore, to every book belongs its copy.”

The real need of copyright law was felt only after the invention of printers and copiers. Prior to the invention of printers, writing could be created only once. It was highly laborious and risk of errors was involved in the manual process of copying by a scribe. Interestingly even in such a situation, Europe had an elaborate system censorship and control over scribes.

The republic of Venice was the first to grant privilege to print books. It was for the history of its own named ‘Rerumvenetarum ab urbe condita opus’ authored by Marcus Antonius CocciusSabellicus. From 1492 onwards Venice began to regularly grant privileges for books. In 1518, the first copyright privilege was granted in England. It was issued to Richard Pynson, King’s Printer, the successor to William Caxton. The privilege gave a monopoly for the term of two years. These copyright privileges were called as monopolies. Later in 1701, the parliaments of England and Scotland were united as a result of the Anglo-Scottish Union. The new parliament was able to change the laws in both countries and an important early piece of legislation was the Copyright Act of 1709, also known as the Statute of Anne, after Queen Anne. The act came into force in 1710 and was the first copyright statute.

The world's first copyright law was the Statute of Anne, enacted in England in 1710. This Act introduced for the first time the concept of the author of a work being the owner of its copyright and laid out fixed terms of protection. Following this Act, copyrighted works were required to be deposited at specific copyright libraries, and registered at Stationers' Hall. There was no automatic copyright protection for unpublished works.

Legislation based on the Statute of Anne gradually appeared in other countries, such as the Copyright Act of 1790 in the United States, but copyright legislation remained uncoordinated at an international level until the 19th century. In 1886, however, the Berne Convention was introduced to provide mutual recognition of copyright between nation states, and to promote the development of international standards for copyright protection. The Berne Convention does away with the need to register works separately in each individual country and has been adopted by almost all the nations of the world (over 140 of the approximately 190 nation states of the world). The Berne Convention remains in force to this day and continues to provide the basis for international copyright law.One of the biggest changes implemented by the adoption of the Berne Convention was to extend copyright protection to unpublished works and remove the requirement for registration. In countries of the Berne Convention, this means that an individual (or the organization they are working for) owns the copyright of any work they produce as soon as it is recorded in some way, be it by writing it down, drawing, filming, etc. 

The Law of copyright was introduced in India only when the British East India Company was established in 1847. This Act had very different provisions in comparison to today’s law. The term of the Copyright is life time of the author plus seven years after the death of the author. But in no case could the total term of copyright exceed a period of forty-two years. The government could grant a compulsory license to publish a book if the owner of the copyright, upon the death of the author, refused to allow its publication. Registration of Copyright with the Home Office was mandatory for enforcement of rights under the Act. This was the first phase. In 1914, when the Indian legislature under the British Raj enacted the Copyright Act of 1914. The major change that was brought in this Act was criminal sanction for infringement. The number of times amendments were brought to this Act till 1957. Subsequently, The Copyright Act, 1957 was enacted in order to suit the provisions of the Berne Convention. This Act was enacted by Independent India by which we are governed till date.

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