Copyright law and technological progress have forever been linked.
The advent of movable type in 1436 caused a proliferation of books across Europe. It is estimated that before Gutenberg’s printing press the number of books in all of Europe numbered in the thousands, but that within 50 years, that number approached ten million. Such explosive growth and its accompanying economic opportunities created an immediate need for protection of the rights of both author and publisher from the earliest of literary pirates.
The world’s first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, was enacted in England in 1710. Exercising its power under the newly adopted Constitution to secure the rights of authors and inventors, Congress passed an act almost identical to the Statute of Anne as the first American copyright law in 1790.
As books continued to be easier, faster, and cheaper to produce and distribute, domestically and internationally, in Europe and North America, it became clear that enhanced protection of authors and uniform international copyright standards were required. One such movement for international uniformity led to the Berne Convention and its 1887 adoption of certain, standard, minimum levels of copyright protection and their enforcement in the member countries across Europe and elsewhere the world.
The present day is the locus of the most intense and most extensive expansion of technological progress in recorded history. Thus, if history is any lesson, this is an era in which broader, more secure copyright rights are essential to protect the rights of thinkers, writers, visionaries.
Go to the History of Copyright for more details and authoritative references.