History of Intellectual Property - Part 2 and Contemporary Issues

On 09/03/2023

Intellectual property is a fundamental subject of contemporary economics, but as its history shows, it is marked by tensions and intense debates. This article, following the first part, aims to trace the key stages in the history of intellectual property from the 18th century onwards and to highlight the contemporary issues of this question. It was in the 18th century that legislation on the subject began to develop in Western countries.

In 1783, a copyright law was adopted in several states in the United States. In 1790, the Copyright Act was enacted, inspired by the Statute of Anne.

In France, in 1791, a law on "useful discoveries" considers that any discovery or invention is the property of its author. Theater companies, for example, must obtain the author's agreement to perform their work.

In 1793, a law was adopted to protect the rights of authors of writings of all kinds, music composers, and draftsmen. This marked the beginning of the legal recognition of intellectual property.

Extension of Copyright

In the 19th century, international agreements were concluded to recognize copyright on an international scale. In 1886, the Berne Union was created, followed in 1883 by the Paris Union. These unions laid the foundation for an international organization for the protection of intellectual property.

At the beginning of the 20th century, reforms were undertaken to rebalance rights between employees, companies, public and private domains. These reforms were conducted to ensure fair and adequate protection for authors, businesses, and the public domain. Indeed, it was crucial to find a middle ground to protect everyone's rights while promoting innovation and creativity. However, despite these reforms, some aspects of intellectual property remain controversial. For example, invention patents are often questioned in terms of their fairness and effectiveness. This raises questions about the need for a more just and equitable intellectual property system for all.

Contemporary Intellectual Property

Today, intellectual property is a major strategic tool for companies and states. It guarantees the value of research and development investments. However, the justification for intellectual property has evolved. It is justified as an essential tool for protecting the investments of large companies. Intellectual property is at the heart of major cultural industries. It underpins immaterialism, but there is tension between appropriation and circulation. Free licenses and the Creative Commons organization are alternatives to intellectual property. However, they are controversial because they can lead to monopolies.

The subject of intellectual property is, therefore, fundamentally political and cannot be considered solely from a legal, economic, or intellectual perspective. It is omnipresent in our daily lives, from using a photo for a course material to a jingle. It is crucial to understand its history and contemporary issues to grasp the challenges of tomorrow.