Intellectual Property Rights Office IP Rights Office IPRO

Copyright history

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Statute of Anne

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 There was no automatic copyright protection for unpublished works.

Berne Convention

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 (181 of the 244 states and territories listed on this website). Following the United States' adoption of the treaty in 1988 the Convention now covers almost all major countries. 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One of the biggest changes implemented by the adoption of the Berne Convention was to extend copyright protection to unpublished works, and remove the requirement for registration.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.