The history of American copyright law originated with the introduction of the printing press to England in the late fifteenth century.
As the number of presses grew, authorities sought to control the publication of books by granting printers a near monopoly on publishing in England.
The Licensing Act of 1662 confirmed that monopoly and established a register of licensed books to be administered by the Stationers’ Company, a group of printers with the authority to censor publications.
The Copyright Office is an office of record, a place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be http://edition.cnn.com/2012/01/31/opinion/patry-copyright-law/ recorded when the requirements of the copyright law are met. Copyright law in the U.S. is governed by federal statute, namely the Copyright Act of 1976.
The Copyright Act prevents the unauthorized copying of a work of authorship. However, only the copying of the work is prohibited–anyone may copy the ideas contained within a work. For example, a copyright could cover a written description of a machine, but the actual machine itself is not covered. Thus, no one could copy the written description, while anyone could use the description to build the described machine.
The Copyright Office furnishes information about the provisions of the copyright law and the procedures for making a registration or recordation, explains the operations and practices of the Copyright Office, and reports on facts found in the public records of the Office.
The Office also administers the mandatory deposit provisions of the copyright law and the various compulsory licensing provisions of the law, which include collecting royalties.