History of Copyright and its Introduction into South African law
Before the year 1710, legislation in both Europe and Britain did not grant any rights to authors of works in any kind of way that resembled current copyright law. Publishers or rather stationers as they were known then were given rights to publish works and authors had to make do with any kind of benefits they would get, if any, from the publishers. The pre-1710 era was characterised by a tight set of laws that governed how stationers published works and under what conditions.
But in 1710 the Statute of Anne was passed during the reign of Queen Anne and it brings about a power shift in the relationship between stationers and authors. This statute recognised the author as the legal owner vesting exclusive rights to their works for 14 years, abolished the laws that allowed for the previous monopoly enjoyed by stationers and gave authors remedies against those who infringed their copyright.
The period from enactment of the Statute to 1911 is characterised by changes to the copyright law which includes the extension of the duration of copyright, the recognition of other copyrightable works, the extension of the laws to British colonies and the incorporation of international legislation.
In 1911, the codification of copyright law takes places via the Copyright Act which repeals all other legislation. This Copyright Act was enacted in South Africa, who at the time was a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, under the Patents, Designs and Trademark and Copyright Act. This Act along a with a host of international law treaties were ratified by the government. In 1978, the Copyright Act was enacted in 1978 and underwent four amendments to form the law that currently regulates copyright in South Africa.
Click below for a more detailed timeline of events – available in PDF and PPT format.