Copyright Law & Practice
The copyright law we know today traces its beginnings to the regulation of printing by the Crown in the 1500s and 1600s in the United Kingdom. Rights were granted by the Crown under royal prerogative to enable the printing of certain works, such as prayer books and statutes. Generally, the Crown sought to exercise strict control over the new printing technology of the day. The Stationers' Company was established, in part, to exercise control over printing, and in particular to supervise the removal of works printed without permission.
In 1637, the Crown issued a decree requiring that all printed works be submitted to the Stationers' Company for registration.
The control over printing proved unmanageable, and the attempt to regulate printing collapsed by the late 1600s, to be
replaced by the Act of Anne of 1709, the very first attempt to legislate to protect copyright. The Act gave to authors a statutory right to prohibit unauthorised copying “for the encouragement of
learning” through the “vesting (of) copies of printed books in the
authors or purchasers of such copies ... ”.