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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.
Copyright is used to protect original material in art, literature or media. Copyright protection arises from the act of creating the work and gives the creator certain kinds of rights to control ways their material can be used. Whereas designs and trademarks require formal registration to achieve protection from unauthorised use or duplication, no formal registration is required for copyright (except in the United Sates). Copyright starts as soon as the material is recorded in writing or in any other way. The right applies to: copying; adapting; distributing; communicating to the public by electronic transmission (including by broadcasting and in an on-demand service); renting or lending copies to the public; and public performance. In many cases the author will also have the right to be identified on their works and to object if their work is distorted or mutilated.
Computer programs are protectable by copyright on the same basis as literary works. Conversion of a program into or between computer languages and codes corresponds to 'adapting' a work and storing any work in a computer amounts to 'copying' the work. Running a computer program or displaying a work on a VDU will usually involve copying and thus require the consent of the copyright owner. A copyright owner will usually need to give permission for 'adapting' and 'copying' their work. Permission may not be required in order to make transient or incidental temporary copies.
Some countries offer a voluntary registration option, some have no requirement or a voluntary process. Currently USA has a somewhat complex system and Turkey requires registration for cinematographic works and phonograms with voluntary registration for everything else.
Duration of protection differ greatly from zero to life in some countries and life plus 0 to 99 years in others.