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Art as industry

A brief history of copyright, technological innovation and creative industries.
Our story begins in 15th century Europe at the end of the Middle Ages. Following a series of social, political and intellectual transformations, Europeans were welcoming the Renaissance. Around 1439 the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press made it possible to print copies of books in great volume. This increased the audience for literature. It developed a marketplace for authors, and ultimately, it led to the birth of creative industry. Fast forward to 1557. In England a new Royal Charter granted to the stationers company established a system of ownership. Members of the company had to register the acquisition of a text to guarantee their exclusive right to reproduce copies. This was the origin of copyright.
An interesting fact: the English poet and author, William Shakespeare, probably received nothing from his copyrights. His earnings are much more likely to have come from the profits of the performing arts enterprise in which he owned a share. In 1710, Queen Anne of Great Britain issued the Copyright Act to limit privileges, fight piracy, promote competition and improve activities such as printing and publishing. This Copyright Act stated that after a certain period of time, stipulated by law, creative works shall fall back into the public domain. Back to our timeline and the year is now 1777. Beaumarchais, the great French playwright, leads his colleagues in a writer’s strike forcing theater owners to pay authors a percentage of the box office intake.
This action changed the performing arts industry and promoted the foundation of the world’s first author’s organisation. In 1790, the United States Congress issued a law that established copyright as a privilege of exclusivity. During that same period national laws in Western Europe harmonised around the idea that there` that there was an inalienable link connecting authors to their works. By the end of the 18th century, several countries already had their own copyright rules, but it took almost a hundred years for them to sign an international agreement on this matter. The Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works was signed in 1886. Its protective scope included photography and cinematography.
Moving on to 1912, the birth of the film industry launched a new cultural revolution. By the mid forties this industry was booming with 400 films being made each year and millions flocking to the theatres. Copyrights were owned by film producers. The music recording business only became truly popular after World War Two. The introduction of magnetic tapes paved the way for new audio formats and devices. As in the film industry, copyrights to recordings were owned by the producers. Still in the 1950s radio, broadcasting systems were present in virtually every country. Radio broadcasters had exclusive rights to the signals they transmitted and had the power to forbid re transmissions by third parties.
Access became universal with the introduction of the transistor radio in the late 60s. TV broadcasting was also becoming extremely popular. Television sets were everywhere and TV became the primary medium for influencing public opinion. The boom of the film, recorded music and broadcasting industries
led to another watershed moment in the 1960s: The Rome Convention. This international agreement extended copyright protection to performers, sound recording producers and broadcasters. We now reach the 1990s when software was added to the Berne Convention and international negotiations led to the foundation of the World Trade Organisation. A new set of international agreements were developed for the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights or TRIPS for short. That brings us to the 21st century. Creative industries such as film, music, broadcasting and mass communication have seen extraordinary growth. Copyright law has had to constantly adapt to keep up.
The invention of the printing press by Gutenberg, at the end of the 15th century, was crucial for developing the modern concept of authorship and for the debate about the rights creators possess in relation to their works.
The printing press also promoted a social revolution. It made the broad circulation of ideas possible, stimulating reading and writing, as well as the development of a new commercial activity: the distribution to the public of copies produced by a printing press.
This video tells a story that begins at that moment. From the origins, the concept and the rules of copyright have been changing along with technological innovation.
It is always good to learn how things became to be as they are.
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Copyright and the Business of Creative Industries

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