Start Date
The first reported case of copyright infringement
in the English-speaking world occurred in 567 of
the Common Era. An Irish monk (later to become
'Saint' Columba of Iona) visited a neighboring
monastery. Therein he copied - without
permission - the Abbott's Psalter [book of
Psalms]. When the Abbot found out he
demanded the offending copy be turned over to
him; Columba refused. The Abbott appealed to
the King who ordered the infringing copy
delivered to its 'proprietor'; Columba complied.
May 2008
The Republic of Florence passed a law giving
Brunelleschi what is thought to be the first true
patent of an invention. The first recorded patent
was granted for a barge with hoisting gear used
to transport marble. January 2007
As owner of a capital intensive and technically
demanding piece of equipment, the printer [with
the advent of the printing press] quickly became
the Proprietor of a Creator's work. With few
printers and many Creators, Proprietors dictated
the terms of sale for a Creator's work. Usually this
involved a single upfront payment extinguishing
all future economic and/or moral claims of the
Creator to the fruit of his or her efforts. Capital
and technical expertise rather than creativity ruled
(and still rule) the terms of trade.
February 2007
By this year Venice passed a patent statute that
included many of the elements of modern patent
laws. January 2007
The Venetian Council of Ten demands that
booksellers secure documentary proof that works
are printed with author's permission. January 2007
04 May 1557
To check the spread of the Protestant
Reformation, the Catholic Queen Mary and King
Philip grant a royal charter to the Worshipful
Company of Stationers of London, thereby
concentrating the entire printing business in the
hands of the members of the Stationers
Company. "The Stationers' charter, establishing
a monopoly on book production, ensured that
once a member had asserted ownership of a text
(or "copy") no other member would publish it.
This is the origin of the term 'copyright'. Members
asserted such ownership by entering it in the
"entry book of copies" or the Stationers'
Company Register." The Stationers Company
charter will be confirmed two years later by
Queen Elizabeth, but this time with the goal of
suppressing Catholicism.
/index.php?category=book+Trade August
It was the Licensing Act of 1662 that 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. August
By 1681 [elsewhere 1694], the Licensing Act [in
England] 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. August
The Copyright Act [in Britain] shifts ownership
from printers to authors. June 2007
Legal protection of the monopoly position [of
London publishers] was destroyed in a decision
of February 22, 1774, in Donaldson versus
Beckett, denying the right to a perpetual
copyright under common law. Destruction of the
claims of old books enabled small booksellers to
sell cheap and convenient reprints.
Innis, Bias, P. 152
The United States issues its first patent to
William Pollard of Philadelphia. His machine
roves and spins cotton.
is/Timeline2.html May 2010
09 Jun 1790
The first item registered under the US Copyright
Act is The Philadelphia Spelling Book by John
Barry. June 2008
31 Jul 1790
Samuel Hopkins receives the first United States
patent July 31, 1790.
tm November 2010
24 Jul 1793
France passed the first copyright law. June 2007
03 Feb 1831
The US federal Copyright Act was revised to
include printed music. The term of copyright was
extended to 28 years, plus the renewal period of
14 years. March 2008
03 Mar 1865
Provisions for photographs were included in the
US Copyright Act. March 2007
09 Sep 1886
The Berne International Copyright Convention
took place at the instigation of Victor Hugo and
backed the individual copyright laws of the
European states. It was updated in 1971. In 1993
the Brussels directive brought in a Europe-wide
70-year rule. May 2008
The Copyright Act of 1891 [in Britain] prohibited
the reprinting of English titles in paperback form,
making paperbacks virtually nonexistent. March 2008
Paper or contact prints of motion pictures were
deposited at the Library of Congress for
copyright purposes.
Loucks-DiMatteo, History
Biograph lost a court case brought by Edison
over use of patented cinematograph equipment.
The decision effectively left Edison with a
monopoly. May 2007
15 Jul 1901
One of Edison's biggest wins came on 15 July
1901 when an U.S. Circuit Court in New York
ruled that Biograph, one of Edison's biggest
competitors, had infringed on Edison patent
claims. An appeals court reversed the decision in
March 1902. August 2006
Laws protecting intellectual property rights are
extended to cover the domain of film.
Blastène, History, P. 29
The US Supreme Court ruled that player-piano
rolls based on copyrighted music are not a
copyright violation but a piece of machinery. May 2008
A US federal copyright law was passed that
allowed composers and music publishers to
demand royalty payments for any public
performance of copyrighted material. Protection
was extended to player-piano rolls and the
phonograph. October 2006
An American court ruled that unauthorized films
infringed on copyrights, in a case over the 1907
film version of Ben-Hur. As a result, film
companies began buying screen rights to books
and plays. September 2006
Major revision of the U.S. Copyright Act protects
authors, composers. May 2007
22 Jan 1925
American writers and composers testified before
a congressional committee hearing about the
radio industry's infringement of their copyrights. December 2006
Jul 1930
Patents war between US and German sound film
technology rivals comes to an end at a Paris
conference with the agreement that Tobis and
Klangfilm will have exclusive access to mainland
European markets. Only Denmark is excluded
because of patent claims by Petersen and
Poulsen. The rest of the world is allocated either
to Western Electric and RCA or is open to
competition. The technical standards are made
compatible around the world. December 2006
Jul 1930
Patents war between US and German sound film
technology rivals comes to an end at a Paris
conference with the agreement that Tobis and
Klangfilm will have exclusive access to mainland
European markets. Only Denmark is excluded
because of patent claims by Petersen and
Poulsen. The rest of the world is allocated either
to Western Electric and RCA or is open to
competition. The technical standards are made
compatible around the world. December 2006
25 Mar 1940
The Supreme Court awards Edward Sheldon
and Margaret Ayre Barnes 201f MGM's profits
from the movie Lefty Lyton for the latter's violation
of copyright laws.
Leonard, The Forties
The Weavers hit #1, setting up folk music as a
lucrative commercial genre. Groups with names
like the Cumberland Three, the Chad Mitchell
Trio, the Wayfarers, the Travelers, etc., follow,
cashing in by copyrighting public domain
material. The Kingston Trio topped the charts a
decade later with their album Sold Out. January
17 Nov 1951
Truman authorizes Finnish composer Jean
Sibelius to renew copyrights of his musical works
that expired during World War II.
Merritt, The Fifties
14 Jul 1967
The Convention Establishing the World
Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO
Convention, was signed at Stockholm, Sweden,
and entered into force on April 26, 1970. As its
name suggests, it established the World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). WIPO
Convention has 184 Contracting Parties. The
Convention is written in English, French, Russian
and Spanish, all texts being equally authentic.
The Convention was amended on September 28,
1979. May 2009
India introduced “process” patents which allowed
innovators to protect the way they made drugs,
rather than the molecules themselves. May 2009
U.S. Copyright Act revision extends protection to
50 years, considers photocopying, fair use,
interlibrary loans. June 2009
Sony introduces the Walkman, the first portable
ml Sep 2007
From 1979 to 1984, Sony was in court, accused -
primarily by Disney - of encouraging copyright
infringement on a massive scale by facilitating
the home recording of TV programs and
particularly of movies; the Supreme Court finally
ruled that home taping was legal as long as the
tape were only for personal use. That 1984 ruling
made it legal for people to build their own
collections of video copies of films, taping them
off the air for purposes of entertainment and
reference (buying legally prerecorded cassettes
never posed copyright problems.)
Mast, Short, P. 597
Convention on Cultural Property Implementation
Act implements the 1970 Convention on the
Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit
Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of
Cultural Property, which the U.S. signed in 1983.
timelines October 2006
The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that neither the
home use of television video recorders nor their
manufacture violated the copyright laws.
New Columbia Encyclopedia
In the U.S., since 1988, the Business Software
Alliance (BSA) has been the voice of the world's
leading software developers with respect to both
government and consumers. BSA educates
computer users on software copyrights;
advocates public policy that fosters innovation
and expands trade opportunities; and fights
software piracy. Other associations in the U.S.
involved in similar activity include the Software
and Information Industry Association and the
Computer Software Industry Association.
The US Audio Home Recording Act. October 2006
Using computer software to automatically
synthesize "Hot 100" song fragments, GT
Technotracks Inc. in Saginaw, Michigan, churned
out $8,000 jingles for car dealers. With this
"statistically proven material," Technotracks
promised clients the best of both worlds-a
familiar sound with low-cost, royalty-free
"original" songs. August
American Libraries Association v Pataki case in
US. [Note: Intellectual Property Rights case.] October 2006
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is
a United States copyright law. The act
criminalized the production and dissemination of
technology that can circumvent measures taken
to protect copyright, not merely infringement of
copyright itself, and heightens the penalties for
copyright infringement on the Internet. This act
was passed on May 14, 1998 by a unanimous
vote in the United States Senate. It was signed
into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28,
1998, the DMCA amended title 17 of the US
Code to extend the reach of copyright, while
limiting the liability of Online Providers from
copyright infringement by their users. December 2006
RIAA litigation against Napster. October 2006
The recording industry sues Napster, a website
that allows people to exchange music. October 2006
'Digital Agenda' Copyright Act in Australia. June 2008
Congress directed the Register of Copyrights to
review The Anti-Circumvention Provision of the
DMCA, Section 1201and to issue
recommendations to the Librarian of Congress
on "classes of works" that should be exempt from
the ban on circumvention. The Librarian of
Congress then announced the exemption of two
narrow classes of works: compilations of lists of
Web sites blocked by filtering software
applications; and literary works, including
computer programs and databases, protected by
access control mechanisms that fail to permit
access because of malfunction, damage, or
obsolescence. In issuing the rulemaking, the
Librarian of Congress noted the "potential
damage to scholarship" and possible harm to
"American creativity" resulting from provisions in
the statute.
January 2011
Court limits Napster's Internet file-sharing of
music. June 2009
Internet music company has reached
agreements with two record companies that sued
the company, claiming copyright infringement. operates on the Internet, allowing
consumers to save and listen to music on their
computers. The San Diego based company
announced Friday it had reached settlements
with Warner Music Group and BMG
Entertainment. The settlements include licensing
agreements allowing music from both companies
to be stored on the service. The licensing
agreements will allow consumers to access
copies of Warner Music Group or BMG compact
discs they already own, using The
record companies will share an undisclosed
amount of money received in the settlements with
its artists. Shares of were up $2.50 US
or 15 per cent, to $19.75 US in early afternoon
trading Friday on the NASDAQ. U.S. District
Judge Jed Rakoff ruled in May that
infringed on copyrights when it purchased tens of
thousands of popular recordings and then copied
them onto its computer servers so it could replay
them for its subscribers. The judge rejected the
company's argument that it did not violate
copyright law because it required subscribers to
prove they already own the compact disc version
of the recordings by briefly inserting them into
their computers. disabled the service
last month to prevent anyone from storing music
produced by the major recording companies that
filed the copyright lawsuit. Warner Music Group
has a roster of more than 1,000 artists and
includes The Atlantic Group, Elektra
Entertainment Group and Rhino Entertainment
labels. BMG Entertainment owns more than 200
record labels in 54 countries, including Arista
Records, RCA Records, Ariola and Windham
Hill. 9 June 2000
More than 3 million blank, recordable CDs are
sold monthly. October
The Internet music-sharing service has
been told it must pay Universal Music Group
damages that could be as high as $250 million
US in a closely-watched copyright case. The
Wednesday afternoon ruling stated that willfully violated the copyrights of
record companies. An U.S. federal judge
awarded $25,000 US in damages for each of the
CDs that copied. said 4,700
CDs were involved. That would place the
damage award at $118 million US. But Universal
said had copied up to 10,000 of its
CDs, making the eventual award a quarter of a
billion dollars. The award fell short of the $450
million Universal had asked for. U.S. District
Judge Jed Rakoff said he could have awarded
more, but he felt hadn't been as
irresponsible as some other companies. Still,
Rakoff said he wanted to send a message to the
Internet community that copyright infringement
was something that couldn't be tolerated. said it would appeal. Universal Music
Group is part of the Seagram Empire. September 2000
EU Directive on Copyright & Related Rights In
The Information Society. May 2007
Shuji Nakamura sued his employer, Japan's
Nichia Corp., for a larger share in the profits from
his invention of the blue LED. He had originally
received a 20,000 yen bonus. In 2004 a court
ordered Nichia to pay him 20 billion yen. A deal
in 2005 gave him 840 million yen. June 2008
KaZaA, an internet file-sharing program, was
founded in Amsterdam by Niklas Zennstrom of
Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark. June 2008
12 Feb 2001
A federal appeals court upheld a decision
against Napster and ruled that the online music
service violated copyright laws. October 2006
Dec 2001
In January 2002, Microsoft announced that more
than 45,000 copies of pirated software had been
seized in December 2001 in the Asia-Pacific
Region, including various Microsoft operating
systems and applications.
Microsoft January 2002
In Canada, the Canadian Alliance against
Software Theft (CAAST) is a non-profit
organization that protects the rights of its
member companies against the unauthorized
sale or reproduction of software through the
support of the legal prosecution of individuals or
groups involved in unlawful activity.
CAAST 2002
Los Angeles - Both sides in the dispute over
Internet music royalties say they will appeal a
recent U.S. federal decision for music broadcast
over the Internet. In June, the U.S. Copyright
Office decided to charge web-based
broadcasters 70 cents US per song heard by 1,
000 listeners. That was half of what a government
panel had proposed earlier. The Librarian of
Congress, James Billington, took this decision.
The decision angered both Internet music
broadcasters, who said the rate was still too high,
and the recording industry, which said that it was
too low. Wednesday was the deadline to appeal
the ruling and the Recording Industry Association
of America said it would appeal. About two
dozen Internet broadcasters said they would
appeal as well. 8 August 2002
Jeff Grosso v. Miramax Film Corporation. [Note:
Grosso claimed that ideas he had submitted to
Mirimax in a script appeared in a subsequent
Mirimax film. His claim was ultimately rejected. -
SM] June 2009
28 Sep 2004
The US House of Representatives passed the
Family Movies Act of 2004 as part of Bill HR
4077 ('To enhance criminal enforcement of the
copyright laws, to educate the public about the
application of copyright law to the Internet, and for
other purposes'). The Bill is sent to the Senate.
The Family Movies Act indemnifies technologies
and companies that re-edit films to excise
'offending' scenes and dialogue, a practice to
which the Directors Guild of America (DGA)
objects. This has been amalgamated in HR 4077
with measures to prevent piracy, which the film
industry supports. March 2008
Australian Federal Court finds site and ISP guilty
of copyright infringement through links to sites
that had been infringing sound recordings. February 2008
The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of
2005 was introduced to Congress, designed to
make technology available (legal filtering devices,
such as DVD players provided by the ClearPlay
company) to parents that will help shield children
from unwanted violence, sex and profanity in
movies. This bill made it legal to alter (or sanitize)
a motion picture to edit out audio and video
content that may not suit minors (i.e., CleanFlicks
rents out edited DVDs). In addition, file sharing
and movie piracy (i.e., camcordering films in
theaters, pre-releasing pirated copies of
copyrighted films, etc.) would be penalized. The
Family Movie Act provision, championed by US
Representative Lamar Smith (Repub., Texas),
Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee's
Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee,
provided an exemption from copyright and
trademark law for skipping and muting content in
a motion picture at the direction of a viewer, or
the use of technology to accomplish the same
result. The debate over censorship vs. artistic
freedom intensified. The Hollywood film industry,
film studios, and the Directors Guild want piracy
protection, but say that "private content filtering" -
editing out foul language and objectionable
scenes - is unabashed censorship. March 2008
US Supreme Court rules that distributors of file-
swapping software can be held liable for
copyright infringement. June 2009
27 Apr 2005
The Court of Appeal in Paris decided that it is
illegal for video distributors to encode protected
works with an anti-copying device without making
the fact sufficiently clear in the packaging. The
court's decision is based on the 'three-stage test'
in EU Directive 2001/29: that making a private
digital copy of a work is a special case, that the
copy does not prevent the normal commercial
exploitation of the work, and that it does not
prejudice the copyright owner's rights. Therefore,
applying means to prevent any making of a
private copy infringes the consumer's rights. March 2008
28 Apr 2005
President George W Bush signs the Family
Entertainment and Copyright Act (FECA) into
law. The first part, the Artists Rights and Theft
Prevention Act (ART Act), makes 'camcorder
piracy'-shooting a copy of a film screened in 'a
motion picture facility'-a specific criminal offence
punishable by three years in prison, and also
prevents pre-release piracy by industry insiders.
The second part, the Family Movie Act (FMA)
protects from liability innovators of technology
that modify audio-visual works- e.g., by muting
offensive dialogue or skipping scenes containing
sex or violence. July 2008
19 May 2005
Germany's Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Supreme
Court) ruled that for the purposes of exploiting
rights contracts, DVD does not fall into the
category of as-yet-unknown technologies, for
which contracts may not be made under German
law, but is analogous to videocassettes. march 2008
11 Aug 2005
In response to copyright problems Google
announces a moratorium on the scanning of
copyrighted books for its Google Print Library
index.php?era=2005 July 2009
Deleting swearing, sex and violence from films
on DVD or VHS violates copyright laws, a U.S.
judge has ruled in a decision that could end
controversial sanitizing done for some video-
rental chains, cable services and the Internet. 9 July 2006
The world's largest music group is suing, alleging the website lets its users
upload copyrighted music and videos without
authorization. In a suit filed on Friday at a U.S.
District Court in California, Universal Music
Group alleges that the News Corp.-owned social
networking website has participated in copyright
infringement by formatting videos in a way that
lets members play and redistribute the content.
"Businesses that seek to trade off on our content,
and the hard work of our artists and songwriters,
shouldn't be free to do so without permission and
without fairly compensating the content creators,"
a UMG statement said. Vivendi SA owns
universal. called Universal Music's
lawsuit "meritless." "We have been keeping
UMG closely apprised of our industry-leading
efforts to protect creators' rights, and it's
unfortunate they decided to file this unnecessary
and meritless litigation," said in a
statement. "We provide users with tools to share
their own work - we do not induce, encourage or
condone copyright violation in any way."
CBC 17 November 2006
18 Sep 2006
A court in Belgium ordered Google to remove all
links to French and German language newspaper
reports published in Belgium due to copyright
laws. February 2008
04 Oct 2006
The world's biggest book fair opened in Frankfurt,
Germany, with Indian authors taking center stage
and a new scheme to protect writers' copyrights
from Internet piracy creating a buzz. January 2008
Viacom Inc. on Tuesday slapped video-sharing
website YouTube and its owner Google Inc. with
a $1 billion US lawsuit alleging massive copyright
infringement. Viacom, which owns several
television U.S. networks including MTV, VH1,
Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Spike TV,
said in its complaint that almost 160,000
unauthorized clips of its programming are
available on YouTube. Those clips have been
viewed more than 1.5 billion times, Viacom
charged. "YouTube is a significant, for-profit
organization that has built a lucrative business
out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others'
creative works in order to enrich itself and its
corporate parent Google," Viacom said in a
release. "Their business model, which is based
on building traffic and selling advertising off of
unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in
obvious conflict with copyright laws," the New
York-based company said. In its suit filed in U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New
York, Viacom called for an injunction prohibiting
Google and YouTube from further use of its clips.
In February, Viacom asked that YouTube remove
more than 100,000 clips of its programming after
negotiations fell apart. 13 March 2007
19 Jan 2007
Belgian lawyers confirmed that a group of
Belgian newspapers had asked Yahoo! Inc. to
remove links to their archived stories from its
Web search service, claiming they infringe
copyright laws. August 2010
13 Feb 2007
A Belgian court ruled that Google may not
reproduce extracts from a variety of Belgian
newspapers, imperilling one of the web search
leader's most popular services if other courts
follow suit. August 2010
04 Oct 2007
The recording industry won a major fight in its
effort to stop illegal music downloading with a US
jury decision to impose $222,000 damages
against a Minnesota woman who used a Web
service to share music. August 2010
12 Oct 2007
More than 1,000 police officers in riot gear
blocked street vendors from setting up stands
selling knock-off purses and pirated DVDs,
clearing Mexico City's clogged historic center for
the first time in more than a decade. august 2010
The Australian song "Kookaburra" was penned
by teacher Marion Sinclair for a Girl Guides
Jamboree in 1935. In 1990 Music Company
Larrikin acquired the rights to "Kookaburra." In
2010 the Australian band Men at Work were
found guilty of plagiarizing the children's ditty in
their 1980s hit "Down Under" after a court battle
involving two of the nation's most iconic songs. August 2010
Intellectual Property Rights Timeline
Created with Timeline Maker Professional. Produced on 25 Feb 2012.