Yes, there is indeed such a thing as copyright infringement, meaning people should not be using other people’s written works without express permission.
In this day and age, with things changing at the speed of light, ideas being transmitted around the world with a click of a mouse and books being published online and in print, it becomes almost second nature for people to think it’s OK to use someone else’s writing and call it their own. The same seems to apply to paperbacks, hard copy books, and other written materials.
Copyright law has its origins from earlier times when authors, individuals working in the printing and publishing fields, and journalists needed to ensure their work was protected from unauthorized copying. Legislation to accomplish this protection was first introduced in the 18th century in England. The first attempt at embodying a copyright law gave authors, etc., the right to keep ownership of original works. If anyone wanted to copy those original documents, they had to get permission.
You might see this is where the term copyright came from — because the law recognized a writers “right” to not be copied. Over time, this area of the law expanded and was applied to musicians, photographers, all original drawings (engineering, maps etc.), and even scientific formulas. These days the laws cover even more areas and are far stricter than the original ones.
Imagine if you lived in a time where you could freely take and copy anyone’s works or documents, change them, and sell them without the consent of the person who first wrote the material. You’d be making money for the fraud of selling someone else’s work as yours, but the original writer would not be getting any profits. Again, all the more reason for copyright being in place, not only to protect an author’s original works, but to protect their potential source of income.
In 1886, there was an international agreement on the nature and extent of copyright law. The same general agreement, except for it being reaffirmed in 1952, has remained in place (with some legal tweaking) until the 21st century. We’re not so different these days that we don’t see the value in protecting original works of writing, etc.
Today’s copyright laws are very clear on their definition of rights and because they are so clear, there are far fewer legal disputes over its infringement. What may vary in this field are how the law applies to copyright renewals, how long the rights apply, and the question of eligibility for a copyright. This isn’t to say that copyright cannot be transferred because it can, so long as the original author gives his or her consent.