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Great moments in piracy Add to ...

In April, a Swedish court sentenced the operators of file-sharing site the Pirate Bay to serve a year in jail and pay a fine of more than $4 million (U.S.).

Was it a decisive victory for the entertainment industry or just another skirmish in the centuries-old battle for copyright? We vote the latter. -Ken Hunt

1701

Daniel Defoe sees his poem The True-Born Englishman reprinted as many as 80,000 times without permission. In a foreword to a corrected edition, he states: "I should have been concerned at its being printed again and again by pirates...but would that they do it justice and print it true according to the copy, they are welcome to sell it for a penny if they please." It's the first time "pirates" appears in reference to copyright infringement.

1790

Dictionary buff Noah Webster joins the fight for national copyright protection in the United States to protect his canon of spellers and readers, and becomes the first American author able to survive solely on royalties from his writing. The legislation, however, ignores international copyrights for another century, enraging Charles Dickens, among others.

1895

Canadian law states that any book published in England that is not published in Canada within a month of its original release becomes common property and may be printed and sold, so long as the publisher pays a 10% royalty to the original author. Westminster strikes down the Canadian law, the fourth time in six years that the Brits have overridden Canadian attempts at copyright law.

1897

American music publishers protest against "Canadian pirates" who advertise mail-order sheet music in Canadian newspapers. The publishers claim they have lost 50% of their business and are in mortal danger. Somehow, the music industry survives.

1984

In a case that could have killed the home theatre market before it even started, Universal Pictures sues Sony, claiming that its Betamax machine enables copyright infringement on its films. Thankfully for busy A-Team fanatics, courts rule that making single copies of television shows is fair use, not infringement.

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