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History & evolution of Copyright

A journey from its origins to today's challenges in the digital age and the search for a fair balance.


Copyright is a set of rules and principles that govern the legal protection of intellectual creations. Throughout history it has undergone many changes and adaptations. In this article, we will explore the evolution of copyright from its origins to the present day, highlighting the main milestones that have shaped its development.

The Origins of Copyright:

The Antiquity

In ancient civilisations such as Greece and Rome, authors were already given some recognition, although there was no formal legal system to protect their works.

The Middle Ages

Copyright began to take shape with the emergence of copyists' guilds and the Church's control over the production of books.

The Birth of Modern Copyright

The Statute of Queen Anne (1710)

Considered the first legal text on copyright, this British statute established a limited period of protection for literary works.

Influence in other countries

Throughout the nineteenth century, various nations adopted similar legislation, leading to the consolidation of copyright as a universal legal principle.

The XIX Century: Globalization of Copyright

The Paris Convention (1883)

It is an international treaty that sets the framework for the protection of industrial property, which includes patents, trademarks, industrial designs, utility models, service marks, trade names and geographical indications.

The Berne Convention (1886)

This international treaty established a common framework for copyright protection and encouraged cooperation between signatory countries.

The creation of collecting societies:

These organisations were set up with the aim of managing and protecting authors' copyrights, facilitating the collection of royalties and defending their interests.

The 20th Century: New Challenges and Developments

The emergence of new technologies

The invention of cinema, radio and television created the need to adapt copyright law to these new forms of expression.

The Universal Copyright Convention (1952)

This treaty extended international copyright protection and laid the foundations for cooperation between countries in the field of intellectual property.

The Rome Convention (1961)

Its main objective is to protect rights related to copyright, i.e. the rights of performers (actors, singers, musicians, etc.), producers of phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasters.

The 21st Century: The Digital Age and Globalisation

Internet emerges:

The proliferation of digital content and the ease with which it can be shared online has created new challenges and opportunities for copyright.

The WIPO Copyright Agreement (1996)

This agreement introduced important changes to the international legal framework, adapting copyright law to the digital age.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998)

It was created in the United States to update and adapt copyright laws to the digital age and to address specific problems related to online copyright infringement and piracy.

Beijing Treaty (2012)

The treaty aims to improve copyright protection for performers in relation to their audiovisual performances, such as films, television programmes and other audiovisual content.


Copyright has evolved considerably since its inception, adapting to the technological and cultural changes that have transformed the way we create and share content. In this historical journey, we have seen copyright evolve from a simple protection of creators' interests to a key tool for fostering creativity, innovation and access to knowledge. However, current challenges, such as digital piracy and the balance between authors' rights and access to information, require constant analysis and adaptation of the copyright framework.

In this context, it is essential that countries continue to work together to find solutions that protect the rights of creators while promoting the dissemination of knowledge and ensuring access to culture for all. The future of copyright will depend on our ability to meet these challenges and build a system that fosters creativity and innovation for the benefit of society as a whole.

Featured Image: Maxx-Studio

Author Gabriel Espinoza

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