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The history of copyright law starts with early privileges and monopolies granted to printers of books. The British Statute of Anne 1710, full title “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned”, was the first copyright statute. Initially copyright law only applied to the copying of books.

Over time other uses such as translations and derivative works were made subject to copyright and copyright now covers a wide range of works, including maps, performances, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, motion pictures and computer programs. Today national copyright laws have been standardized to some extent through international and regional agreements such as the Berne Convention and the European copyright directives. Although there are consistencies among nations’ copyright laws, each jurisdiction has separate and distinct laws and regulations about copyright.

Some jurisdictions also recognize moral rights of creators, such as the right to be credited for the work. Copyright are exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression or fixation. In most jurisdictions copyright arises upon fixation and does not need to be registered. Copyright owners have the exclusive statutory right to exercise control over copying and other exploitation of the works for a specific period of time, after which the work is said to enter the public domain.

Uses which are covered under limitations and exceptions to copyright, such as fair use, do not require permission from the copyright owner. All other uses require permission and copyright owners can license or permanently transfer or assign their exclusive rights to othEarly developments The earliest recorded historical case-law on the right to copy comes from ancient Ireland. The Cathach is the oldest extant Irish manuscript of the Psalter and the earliest example of Irish writing. 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 judgement “To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy. [1] [This story comes from an author much more interested in a good story than an accurate one and so one can question whether this was the actual decision, or even whether there was a case at all. However the story is quite old and so at least gives us some idea of opinion in the days before the printing press.

Modern copyright law has been influenced by an array of older legal rights that have been recognized throughout history, including the moral rights of the author who created a work, the economic rights of a benefactor who paid to have a copy made, the property rights of the individual owner of a copy, and a sovereign’s right to censor and to regulate the printing industry. The origins of some of these rights can be traced back to ancient Greek culture, ancient Jewish law, and ancient Roman law. [2] In Greek society, during the sixth century B. C. E. there emerged the notion of the individual self, including personal ideals, ambition, and creativity. [3]

The individual self is important in copyright because it distinguishes the creativity produced by an individual from the rest of society. In ancient Jewish Talmudic law there can be found recognition of the moral rights of the author and the economic or property rights of an author. [4] Prior to the invention of movable type in the West in the mid-15th century, texts were copied by hand and the small number of texts generated few occasions for these rights to be tested.

During the Roman Empire, a period of prosperous book trade, no copyright or similar regulations existed, copying by those other than professional booksellers was rare. This is because books were, typically, copied by literate slaves, who were expensive to buy and maintain. Thus, any copier would have had to pay much the same expense as a professional publisher. Roman book sellers would sometimes pay a well regarded author for first access to a text for copying, but they had no exclusive rights to a work and authors were not normally paid anything for their work. [5]

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