When was the first copyright law passed?

The new law is relatively limited in scope, protecting books, maps and graphics for only 14 years. Our editors will review what you submitted and determine if they should review the article. In 1790, the Constitution enshrined in American law the principle that the author of a work can reap the fruits of his intellectual creativity for a limited time. Always consult an intellectual property lawyer operating in your local jurisdiction.

In 1793, a new law was passed granting authors, composers and artists the exclusive right to sell and distribute their works, and the right was extended to their heirs and assigns for 10 years after the author's death. Finally, in a case known as Midwinter v Hamilton (1743—174), London booksellers turned to common law and began a 30-year period known as the battle of the booksellers. The Act guaranteed authors (or their executors, administrators or assigns) “the exclusive right and freedom to print, reprint, publish and sell their works for a renewable period of 14 years. The first federal law of its kind was formally entitled “A Law to Encourage Learning”, by obtaining copies of maps, graphs and books, from the authors and owners of such copies, during the times mentioned therein.

We have also established a growing list of partner universities that guarantee LawShelf credit transfers, including Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State University, University of Maryland Global Campus, Purdue University Global, and DeVry University. The origins of some of these rights can be traced back to ancient Greek culture, ancient Jewish law and ancient Roman law. The National Assembly placed this law firmly on a natural basis, calling it the Declaration of the Rights of Genius and thus evoking the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.