Sociology Index


United Kingdom Copyright Law

Intellectual Property Rights, Copyright Law

In 1518 the first copyright privilege in England was issued to Richard Pynson, the successor to William Caxton. The privilege gives a monopoly for the term of two years. Queen Elizabeth gave grants of monopoly in articles of common use, such as salt, leather, coal, soap, cards, beer, and wine. The practice was continued until the Statute of Monopolies was enacted in 1623, ending most monopolies, with certain exceptions, such as patents. Grants of Letters patent to publishers became common after 1623.

The period of common-law copyright for Great Britain was brought to a close by the Act of Queen Anne in 1709. According to British law an individual's work is placed under copyright law as soon as it leaves that person's mind and is placed in some physical form. It can be a painting, a musical work written in manuscript or an architectural schematic. Once in physical form, as long as it is an original work (in the sense of not having been copied from an existing work, rather than in the sense of being novel or unique), copyright in that work is automatically vested in the person who put the concept into material form.

To establish independent creation and authorship, a common and simple practice to obtain evidence in favour of authorship is to place the copyright material in an envelope or package together with a document signed by several people stating that they have examined the work prior to it being sealed and that in their opinion it is original. Once this is done the package is mailed to the owner by recorded delivery, which helps to establish when the work was created, who the originator of the work is and that there are signatory validators prepared to state that it is original. Once this process is complete the package and contents may be able to be usable in a court of law as evidence of date of creation and also for priority when necessary.