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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsThe transition to new manufacturing processes that started in the second half of the 18th century was known as the Industrial Revolution. It was characterised by a shift from manual to mechanical methods of production. This included new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools, and the rise of the factory system. As the idea of progress took hold, the 19th century saw industry become dominant in the socioeconomic order. It brought about crucial developments in transportation, construction, manufacturing, and communication technologies. These predominantly originated in Europe, and are accompanied by profound changes in labour relationships.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsAside from the steam engine using locomotives, telegraphy also developed into a practical communication technology during the same period. Another important innovation was the incandescent electric light bulb. This inventions profound effect on the workplace was to make it possible for factories to have two or three work shifts. The inventor behind both technologies was Thomas Edison. Born in 1847, Edison was a prolific inventor, and the many machines he created influence daily life all over the world. He held more than 1,000 patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office. Amongst his inventions was the phonograph, a machine for the mechanical recording and reproduction of sound and a motion picture camera.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 secondsHis inventions had a widespread impact, promoting the development of major new industries and contributing to the increase of mass communication, particularly telecommunications. As in the case of literary works, legal protection for technical inventions had existed since the 15th century. In Venice, in 1474, the first statute regulating rights on inventions was based on principles that are still valid today and define the fundamental requirements for patent. These comprised evidence of novelty or that the invention is nonexisting in the actual state of art, evidence that it can be produced industrially and that it contributes to the progress of the state of art, and the disclosure of the secret of the novelty in exchange for the privilege of exclusivity.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsThe statute also provided for the terms of such a privilege, granted by the authorities, to those that could comply with the requirements. In 1793, the US Patent Act was updated by Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, from a utilitarian perspective. This meant that the statute was enacted to guarantee the exclusive right of the inventor, or the patent holder, to commercially exploit the patented invention. Jefferson believed that there was no point in granting a privilege of exclusivity if it did not improve the state of the art and promote the development of industry for the benefit of individuals. In his view, rewarding intellectual effort had to be justified by the actual delivery of progress.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 secondsSimilar development can be observed in the national legislations of different countries. They show a harmonising trend in the principles and norms regarding the protection of intellectual work. Legal protection was understood as a tool to promote innovation, progress, international commerce, and the free market. The idea of granting an exclusive right, as a reward for intellectual work that results in progress and better living conditions, became broadly adopted and open the path for internationalisation.

Technological enhancements and industry

This video shows that the idea of progress was essential to the extraordinary technological development that led to the Industrial Revolution.

The narrative is based on the process starting in the 18th century, which had a deep impact on social structure through the introduction of completely new modes of production.

This change, championed by a strong belief in intellectual work as a tool for progress, drew a line that distinguished between mechanical work sold in exchange of wages and creative work developed for no purpose other than expressing ideas and feelings.

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring Copyright: History, Culture, Industry

International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC)

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