Collective management of copyright began at almost the same time as enactment of the first national copyright laws, and has expanded over the centuries commensurate with technological advances.

Copyright has been managed collectively since the late 1700s. It started in France in 1777, in the field of theatre, with dramatic and literary works. Collective management is most common in the field of music, for which the first collective management organization was established in 1850, also in France. Similar organizations now function in more than 100 countries.

Copyright and technology have really evolved hand in hand: first printing and then sound recording, cinematography, broadcasting, photocopying, satellite and cable transmission, video recording and most recently the Internet.

Photocopying machines became commonplace in the late 1960s and early 1970s, producing a need for appropriate solutions to increasing levels of unauthorized photocopying, to turn it into a lawful activity by securing access to users and remuneration to authors and publishers.

As early as 1955, a decision of the Federal Court of Justice in Germany ruled that the reproduction of an article from scientific journals by an industrial firm, to be used by its employees, was not a free use which could take place without the consent of rights holders5 . In 1957, the collecting society VG WORT was established in Germany as a general literary rights organization for authors and publishers.

The first RRO to specialize in the management of reprography, BONUS, was established in 1973 in Sweden. By September 2004, RROs were functioning in 50 countries, and every year new RROs are established.