Copyright infringement (or copyright violation) is the unauthorized use of material that is covered by copyright law, in a manner that violates one of the copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works.
For electronic and audio-visual media, unauthorized reproduction and distribution is occasionally referred to as piracy (an early reference was made by Daniel Defoe in 1703 when he said of his novel True-born Englishman : "Its being Printed again and again, by Pyrates"). The practice of labeling the act of infringement as "piracy" actually predates copyright itself. Even prior to the 1709 enactment of the Statute of Anne, generally recognized as the first copyright law, the Stationers' Company of London in 1557 received a Royal Charter giving the company a monopoly on publication and tasking it with enforcing the charter. Those who violated the charter were labeled pirates as early as 1603.
The legal basis for this usage dates from the same era, and has been consistently applied until the present time. Critics of the use of the term "piracy" to describe such practices contend that it is pejorative, unfairly equates copyright infringement with more sinister activity, though courts often hold that under law the two terms are interchangeable.