Copyright Act of 1909

The Copyright Act of 1909 was a landmark statute in United States statutory copyright law. It became Pub.L. 60–349 on March 4, 1909 by the 60th United States Congress, and it went into effect on July 1, 1909.[1] The Act was repealed and superseded by the Copyright Act of 1976, but it remains effective for copyrighted works created before the Copyright Act of 1976 went into effect in January 1, 1978. It allowed for works to be copyrighted for a period of 28 years from the date of publication but extended the preexisting renewal term of 14 years (effective as of the Copyright Act of 1831) to 28 years, for a maximum of 56 years (in place of the former 42 years).

Copyright Act of 1909
Great Seal of the United States (obverse)
Long titleAn Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts Representing Copyright
Enacted bythe 60th United States Congress
EffectiveJuly 1, 1909
Public lawPub.L. 60–349
Statutes at Large35 Stat. 1075
Acts repealedCopyright Act of 1790
Legislative history
Major amendments
1912, 1914, 1941, repealed by the Copyright Act of 1976
United States Supreme Court cases


Tom Bell's graph showing extension of U.S. copyright term over time
Expansion of U.S. copyright law (Assuming authors create their works at age 35 and live for seventy years)

Before the 1909 Act, the last major revision to United States copyright law was the 1790 Act. Methods of reproducing and duplicating works subject to copyright had significantly increased since the 1790 Act. President Theodore Roosevelt expressed the need for a complete revision of copyright law as opposed to amendments, saying in a message to Congress in December 1905, "Our copyright laws urgently need revision. They are imperfect in definition, confused and inconsistent in expression; they omit provision for many articles which, under modern reproductive processes, are entitled to protection; they impose hardships upon the copyright proprietor which are not essential to the fair protection of the public; they are difficult for the courts to interpret and impossible for the Copyright Office to administer with satisfaction to the public."[2]

Under the 1909 Act, federal statutory copyright protection attached to original works only when those works were 1) published and 2) had a notice of copyright affixed. Thus, state copyright law governed protection for unpublished works, but published works, whether containing a notice of copyright or not, were governed exclusively by federal law. If no notice of copyright was affixed to a work and the work was "published" in a legal sense, the 1909 Act provided no copyright protection and the work became part of the public domain. In the report submitted by the House Committee on Patents, they designed the copyright law "not primarily for the benefit of the author, but primarily for the benefit of the public."[3] The 1976 Act changed this result, providing that copyright protection attaches to works that are original and fixed in a tangible medium of expression, regardless of publication or affixation of notice.

It also created (codified in Section 1(e))[4] the first compulsory mechanical license to allow anyone to make a mechanical reproduction (known today as a phonorecord) of a musical composition without the consent of the copyright owner provided that the person adhered to the provisions of the license. (Congress intended it to govern piano rolls.) In later practice, compulsory license made it possible to record and distribute a cover version of a hit song – once a recording had been released, and the copyright owner was served with a notice of intention to use – that directly competed with the original.

Case law

White-Smith Music Publishing Company v. Apollo Company

In February 1908, the Supreme Court ruled that manufacturers of pianola music rolls were not required to pay royalties to composers, based on the holding that these music rolls were not copies of musical compositions within the meaning of copyright law because it was not "a written or printed record in intelligible notation."[5] This decision on sheet music was superseded by the Act.

F. W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, Inc.

In 1952, the Supreme Court held that the Act gave trial judges significant freedom in imposing legal remedies to discourage copyright infringement. Under this ruling, judges could penalize copyright infringers with repaying profits or paying compensation for damages. If damages could not be determined, judges could levy statutory damages instead.[6]

Herbert v. Shanley Co.

On January 22, 1917, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Holmes upheld the right for copyright owners to compensation for a public performance of a musical composition, even if there was no direct charge for admission. This ruling forced Shanley's Restaurant in New York to pay a fee to songwriter Victor Herbert who performed one of his songs during dinner. This decision helped the ASCAP adopt the royalty-payment mechanism known as a "blanket license," which is still used today. Under a blanket license, signatory businesses such as restaurants have the right to play any composition of an ASCAP artist for an annual fee.[7]

Notable amendments

The Townsend Amendment of 1912

This amendment resulted in motion pictures being specifically added to the category of protected works. Prior to this amendment, United States copyright law did not protect nor register motion picture films. Instead, most motion picture filmmakers would register their work as a collection of still photographs.[8]

The Act of March 28, 1914

This amendment amended section 12 of the Copyright Act of 1909, allowing foreign authors whose work had been published in a foreign country to submit only one copy of the best edition of their work, rather than the customary two. This helped ease the deposit requirements of foreign authors.[9]

The Act of September 25, 1941

This amended section 8 of the Copyright Act of 1909 with the intention to preserve the right of authors during periods of emergency, and specifically for World War II. The purpose of this amendment was to prevent authors, copyright owners, or proprietors from losing the opportunity to acquire or preserve copyright protection for their works because of the disruption of communication or suspension of facilities where they could acquire copyright licenses because of the war.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Copyright Act of 1909 Archived 2002-08-12 at, Pub. L. 60-349, 35 Stat. 1075 (Mar. 4, 1909; repealed Jan. 1, 1978).
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2011-11-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), The House Report on the Copyright Act of 1909.
  3. ^ [1], Notable Dates in American Copyright.
  4. ^ Peters, Marybeth (March 11, 2004). "Statement of Marybeth Peters, The Register of Copyrights, before the Subcommittee on Courts, The Internet and Intellectual Property of the House Committe [sic] on the Judiciary: Section 115 Compulsory License". U.S. Copyright Office. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  5. ^ "WHITE-SMITH MUSIC PUB. CO. v. APOLLO CO". FindLaw. 1908-02-24. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
  6. ^ Jackson, Robert (1952-12-22). "F. W. WOOLWORTH CO. v. CONTEMPORARY ARTS, Inc". FindLaw. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Evina, Frank (October 2004). "Copyright Lore" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]


External links

All rights reserved

"All rights reserved" is a copyright formality indicating that the copyright holder reserves, or holds for its own use, all the rights provided by copyright law. Originating in the Buenos Aires Convention of 1910, it no longer has any legal effect in any jurisdiction. However, it is still used by many copyright holders.

Bilateral copyright agreements of the United States

Bilateral copyright agreements of the United States are agreements between the United States and another country which allow U.S. authors to claim copyright protection in the other country and authors from that country to claim protection under United States copyright law.

The agreements can take one of two forms with respect to the United States:

An exchange of notes, which is given effect in U.S. law by a Presidential proclamation under

International Copyright Act of 1891 (March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1106)

Copyright Act of 1909 (March 4, 1909, 35 Stat. 1075), later Title 17 of the United States Code

Act of December 18, 1919 (41 Stat. 368), which extended the period of time available to complete copyright formalities in the U.S. to take account of World War I

Act of September 25, 1941 (55 Stat. 732), which extended the period of time available to complete copyright formalities in the U.S. to take account of World War II

Copyright Act of 1976, which completely restated Title 17, notably 17 U.S.C. 104(b)(6)

Uruguay Round Agreements Act (Pub.L. 103–465, 108 Stat. 4809), codified as 17 U.S.C. 104A(g), which deals with restored copyrights

A treaty ratified by the United States Senate, which has direct effect under

Copyright Act of 1909

Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. 104(b) and 104A)Treaties which deal only with copyright matters are usually known as "conventions": however, certain other treaties (e.g., peace treaties) also contain provisions concerning copyright.

Bird of Paradise (1932 film)

Bird of Paradise is a 1932 American pre-Code American romantic adventure drama film directed by King Vidor, starring Dolores del Río and Joel McCrea. It was released by RKO Radio Pictures.

In 1960, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication per the Copyright Act of 1909.

Copyright Act

Copyright Act (with its variations) is a stock short title used for legislation in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States relating to the copyright. The Bill for an Act with this short title will usually have been known as a Copyright Bill during its passage through Parliament.

Copyright Act of 1831

The Copyright Act of 1831 was the first general revision to United States copyright law. The bill is largely the result of lobbying efforts by American lexicographer Noah Webster.

The key changes in the Act included:

Extension of the original copyright term from 14 years to 28 years, with an option to renew the copyright for another 14 years

Addition of musical compositions to the list of statutorily protected works (though this protection only extended to reproductions of compositions in printed form; the public performance right was not recognized until later)

Extension of the statute of limitations on copyright actions from one year to two

Changes in copyright formality requirements

Copyright Act of 1976

The Copyright Act of 1976 is a United States copyright law and remains the primary basis of copyright law in the United States, as amended by several later enacted copyright provisions. The Act spells out the basic rights of copyright holders, codified the doctrine of "fair use," and for most new copyrights adopted a unitary term based on the date of the author's death rather than the prior scheme of fixed initial and renewal terms. It became Public Law number 94-553 on October 19, 1976 and went into effect on January 1, 1978.

Copyright renewal in the United States

Copyright renewal is a process through which an initial term of copyright protection for a work can be extended for a second term. Once the term of copyright protection has ended, the copyrighted work enters the public domain, and can be freely reproduced and incorporated into new works.

In the United States, works published before 1923 are all in the public domain under the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1909 and previous law. This act provided for an initial term of 28 years. This term could be extended for an additional 28 years by registering copyright renewal with the United States Copyright Office.Works published before 1964 in the US are all in the public domain, excepting only those for which a renewal was registered with the US Copyright Office. Relatively few works from this era have had their copyrights renewed. A US Copyright Office study in 1961 found that fewer than 15% of registered copyrights had been renewed. While the copyrights for most movies were renewed, one important example of a film that entered the public domain because of non-renewal is It's a Wonderful Life, which was originally copyrighted in 1946 and entered the public domain in 1975

(however, the film as a whole is still subject to the copyright of its source material, which was properly renewed).The US Copyright Act of 1976 modified these provisions so that the second, renewed term was 47 years. This extension applied to works that had been copyrighted between 1950 and 1977 and were thus in their first 28-year term of copyright protection, as well as to new works copyrighted after 1977. The maximum term of copyright protection became 75 years instead of the 56 years of the 1909 law, and applied to works whose copyrights were renewed in 1978 or later.

Copyright renewal has largely lost its significance for works copyrighted in the US in 1964 or after due to the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992. This law removed the requirement that a second term of copyright protection is contingent on a renewal registration. The effect was that any work copyrighted in the US in 1964 or after had a copyright term of 75 years, whether or not a formal copyright renewal was filed. There are some legal reasons for filing such renewal registrations. A further amendment to US copyright law in 1998 extended the total term of protection to 95 years, which now applies to all works copyrighted in 1964 or after.

Copyright status of works by the federal government of the United States

A work of the United States government, as defined by the United States copyright law, is "a work prepared by an officer or employee" of the federal government "as part of that person's official duties." In general, under section 105 of the Copyright Act, such works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law and are therefore in the public domain.

This act only applies to U.S. domestic copyright as that is the extent of U.S. federal law. The U.S. government asserts that it can still hold the copyright to those works in other countries.Publication of an otherwise protected work by the U.S. government does not put that work in the public domain. For example, government publications may include works copyrighted by a contractor or grantee; copyrighted material assigned to the U.S. Government; or copyrighted information from other sources.

Copyright symbol

The copyright symbol, or copyright sign, © (a circled capital letter C for copyright), is the symbol used in copyright notices for works other than sound recordings (which are indicated with the ℗ symbol). The use of the symbol is described in United States copyright law, and, internationally, by the Universal Copyright Convention. The symbol is widely recognized, but under the Berne Convention is no longer required to obtain a new copyright in most nations. For instance, the United States eliminated the copyright symbol requirement as of March 1, 1989, but its presence or absence is legally significant on works published previously.

Dark Passage

Dark Passage (1946) is a crime novel by David Goodis. It was the basis for the 1947 film noir of the same name.

Douglas v. Cunningham

Douglas v. Cunningham, 294 U.S. 207 (1935), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held the Copyright Act of 1909 allowed an award of $5,000 instead of a copyright infringement damages calculation based on the newspaper's circulation.

F. W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, Inc.

F. W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, Inc. nicknamed The Cocker Spaniel Case, 344 U.S. 228 (1952), is a United States Supreme Court case regarding copyright infringement. The Copyright Act of 1909 allows recovery of either the profits of the infringing company or of the damages suffered by the copyright holder as the legal remedies. When the actual damages cannot be determined, statutory damages can be levied instead. At issue, is whether the trial judge can impose statutory damages when the actual profits of the infringer are known.

Hit parade

A hit parade is a ranked list of the most popular recordings at a given point in time, usually determined by sales and/or airplay. The term originated in the 1930s; Billboard magazine published its first music hit parade on January 4, 1936. It has also been used by broadcast programs which featured hit (sheet music and record) tunes such as Your Hit Parade, which aired on radio and television in the United States from 1935 through the 1950s.

List of Copyright Acts

This is a list of copyright Acts, which are laws enacting the copyright.

List of United States Supreme Court copyright case law

This is a list of Supreme Court of the United States cases in the area of copyright law. In the United States Constitution, the Copyright Clause in Article 1, Section 8 endows Congress with the power to create a copyright system. To avoid individual states' attempts at creating their own copyright systems, Congress passed the Copyright Act of 1790, based on Great Britain's Statute of Anne. Over the decades since, copyright in the United States has become a more complicated system with longer terms and more tests, and has been the subject of many decisions by the Court.

The Supreme Court was the source of a number of concepts in the field, including fair use, the idea-expression divide, the useful articles or separability doctrine, and the uncopyrightability of federal documents.

This list is a list solely of United States Supreme Court decisions about applying copyright law. Not all Supreme Court decisions are ultimately influential and, as in other fields, not all important decisions are made at the Supreme Court level. Many federal courts issue rulings that are significant or come to be influential, but those are outside the scope of this list.

Because they share a clause of the Constitution and much the same justifications, there is considerable overlap between patent and copyright jurisprudence. As such, patent cases may appear in this list if they make their connections to copyright explicit in the opinions.

Secondary liability

Secondary liability, or indirect infringement, arises when a party materially contributes to, facilitates, induces, or is otherwise responsible for directly infringing acts carried out by another party. The US has statutorily codified secondary liability rules for trademarks and patents, but for matters relating to copyright, this has solely been a product of case law developments. In other words, courts, rather than Congress, have been the primary developers of theories and policies concerning secondary liability.

Thorvald Solberg

Thorvald Solberg (April 22, 1852 – July 15, 1949) was the first Register of Copyrights (1897–1930) in the United States Copyright Office. He was a noted authority on copyright and played an instrumental role in shaping the Copyright Act of 1909.

Washingtonian Pub. Co. v. Pearson

Washingtonian Pub. Co. v. Pearson, 306 U.S. 30 (1939), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held the Copyright Act of 1909's deposit requirement did not require immediate deposit, or deposit before infringement occurs, in order to bring a suit for infringement.In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v., which will answer the similar issue of "whether a copyright owner may commence an infringement suit after delivering the proper deposit, application, and fee to the Copyright Office, but before the Register of Copyrights has acted on the application for registration."

White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co.

White-Smith Music Publishing Company v. Apollo Company, 209 U.S. 1 (1908), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which ruled that manufacturers of music rolls for player pianos did not have to pay royalties to the composers. The ruling was based on a holding that the piano rolls were not copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted sheet music, but were instead parts of the machine that reproduced the music.

This case was subsequently eclipsed by Congress's intervention in the form of an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1909, introducing a compulsory license for the manufacture and distribution of such "mechanical" embodiments of musical works.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.