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Expansion of U.S. copyright law

The Copyright Act of 1909 [1] was a landmark statute in United States statutory copyright law. The Act was superseded by the Copyright Act of 1976, but it remains effective for copyrighted works created before the 1976 Act went into effect in 1978. It allowed for works to be copyrighted for a period of 28 years from the date of publication, renewable once for a second 28-year term. Like the Copyright Act of 1790 before it, the copyrighted work could be extended for a second term of equal value.

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 Thus, state copyright law governed protection for unpublished works, but published works, whether containing a notice of copyright or not, were governed exclusively by federal law.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. 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 (Section 1(e))[2] 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


  1. ^ [1] aka 'Public Law 60-349 (March 4, 1909) • 35 Stat. 1075
  2. ^

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

United States Code
by the United States Government
Title 17. Copyright
From MegaLaw. Version existing before the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1976 (Pub. L. 94-553, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2541).: CURRENT VERSION
Title 17—Copyright

Amendment history

Title 17 was added by the Act of July 30, 1947 (61 Stat. 652) which codified the Copyright Act of 1909 (Mar. 4, 1909, 35 Stat. 1075). It was completely amended by the Copyright Act of 1976 (Pub. L. 94-553, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2541).


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