Copper ions are essential for bacteria but can cause a number of toxic cellular effects if levels of free ions are not controlled. Investigations of copper-resistant bacteria have revealed several mechanisms, mostly plasmid-determined, that prevent cellular uptake of high levels of free copper ions. However, these studies have also revealed that bacteria apparently have efficient chromosomally encoded systems for uptake and management of trace levels of copper. This review will explore the relationship of copper uptake systems to resistance mechanisms and the possibility that copper resistance has evolved directly through modification of chromosomal copper uptake genes.