Intellectual property piracy has a long history. Today, corporations in the United States lose billions of dollars every year to intellectual property theft. However, this may just be bad karma coming back around. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Congress passed the Copyright Act of 1790. The act implicitly allowed for the theft of foreign works, and that implication was taken advantage of as American authors profited off of foreign works passing off others written knowledge as if it were their own. However, to find the birth of intellectual rights, one must travel all the way back to seventeenth century London to a historical location known as Stationer’s Hall.
If an author was considering publishing their works, they would make an entry in a 650 page registry. This would provide some proof that the author was the original producer of the published works. The keepers of the registry held their duties to the upmost importance. Dating back to the sixteenth century, the book has survived such catastrophes as the Great London Fires. Formal meetings were held among prominent booksellers and publishers to constitute the authority in which they invested in the registry. Unfortunately this authority vested in the founders of the registry book would not go unopposed, medieval politics would soon intervene.
In the middle ages, no one was to challenge the king’s authority. Although the powers to protect the intellectual thoughts of writers did not oppose any laws made by the king at the time, it did however place a sort of power in the hands of a small faction that was not appointed by the king making it seem as if the founders of the registry felt empowered enough to enact their own laws. A political battle that ensued would result in an uprising of intellectual theft, the beginnings of piracy.
The power of print was one of the fiercest weapons against the tyranny of a monarch. Print media was a tool used by the literate public to raise concerns among commoners about issues that were common to the people and not the elite. Ideas began to circulate throughout towns, ideas that threatened the existence of a monarch. Lay people began to realize for the first time that they could take control over powerful entities such as the economy, the military, and welfare. Ideas as such, rob the king and his court of tools that are measures of control.
It is not to say that intellectual theft did not have a history before this point. In times far earlier, there were many cases pertaining to theft of another authors work. Yet there were no laws on this particular subject and for there to be a crime, there must first be a law in place to prevent said crime. The difference between then and now pertains to a couple of factors coming into play that would make this time in history a cornerstone for the future battles in dealing with the theft of another’s intellectual works.
The first factor at hand is the innovative advances occurring with the printing...