The origin of copyright has been linked to the European invention of printing (the Gutenberg press) in the fifteenth century. History shows however that prior to that event some form of protection existed in relation to creative output. For example, already in ancient Greece and Rome, plagiarism was widely condemned as dishonourable. Moreover, ethnographers argue also that, stretching back to the earliest historical times, examples existed where some rights were recognized in respect of works and trademarks among various peoples. It took however several centuries before the pecuniary and moral interests of authors were formally recgnised in the legal systems.
The invention of printing in Europe marks a decisive date as it has transformed the conditions for dissemination of printed works in an unprecedented way. Secular rulers and the clergy, both in England and on the European continent, quickly recognized the printing press as a new powerful social influence and began to grant privileges to certain printers in order to control the distribution of printed works. From the late fifteenth to the early eighteenth century, the history of printing was marked by the issuance of various royal decrees and statutes, which may be considered as the precursors of today’s copyright laws.