Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Copyright was defined by Lord Mansfield as "an incorporeal right to the sole printing and publishing of somewhat intellectual communicated by letters." It is a species of property founded on industrial occupancy, to wit, labour and invention bestowed on materials. The earliest instance of a recognition of copyright is to be found in the Charter of the Stationers' Company, granted by Philip and Mary, and in the Decrees of the Court of Star Chamber; and the first statute on the subject was the 8 Anne c. 19, which professes to have been passed for the encouragement and protection of learned men. This Act was repealed by the Statute 5 and 6 Vict. c. 45, which with some subsequent statutes now regulates the law of copyright. By the third section of the principal Act it is enacted that the copyright in every book which shall be published in the author's lifetime shall endure for the natural life of such author, and for the further term of seven years from his death, and shall be the property of such author and his assigns; but if the said seven years shall expire before the expiration of 42 years from the first publication of such book, then the copyright shall in that case endure for the full period of 42 years, and the copyright of every book which shall be first published after the death of its author shall endure for the term of 42 years from the first publication thereof. But the right of property in copyright must be registered in the registry of the Stationers' Company, and after such registry it is assignable by a mere entry of the transfer in the same registry in the manner prescribed by the Act. International copyright is provided for by the International Copyright Act, 1886. Proprietors of copyright in works published in this country must give notice to the Commissioners of Customs, in order to have such works inserted in the Customs of copyright works prohibited to be imported into the United Kingdom or Colonies. Copyright and Performing Right, in musical and dramatic works, depend upon the combined effect of the 3 and 4 William IV., chap. 15, and 5 and 6 Victoria, chap. 45, under which the author is entitled to the like period as in the case of literary works. The clauses as to registration and delivery of copies apply, except in the case of performing right in dramatic works. It is a moot point whether such right in unpublished dramatic works is not perpetual. A novelist has no right to protection from dramatisation unless by himself dramatising his novel before publication. In all cases of infringement of musical or dramatic copyright an injunction may be obtained from the High Court restraining the offence, and damages or an account of the profits made by the infringer. There is also a penalty of 40s. imposed for each unlawful performance of a dramatic work. As to what is "dramatic" and who is an infringer, a song about a fire at sea is dramatic; a proprietor of a theatre who let it with the scenery, properties and company to B was held liable for unlawful performance by B. The owner of a tavern who let a room to an intending infringer was held not liable. There is copyright in new words written to a non-copyright air, and even in a new accompaniment to an old air; also in an authorised arrangement of an opera score for the piano. The Berne Convention protects not only the performing and multiplying right of an author or composer, but gives exclusive right of translation to the former for a limited period. By the new American law performing right in music is ignored.