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GENERAL REVISION OF THE COPYRIGHT LAW

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1932

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON PATENTS,

Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10 o'clock a. m., in the caucus room, House Office Building, Washington, D. C., Hon. William I. Sirovich (chairman) presiding.

The CHAIRMAN. I will call the committee to order, and I am going to call upon William Lincoln Brown, for 10 years assistant register of copyrights, now acting register of copyrights in charge of the Copyright Office, to give us a statement regarding the history of the copyright system.

STATEMENT OF WILLIAM LINCOLN BROWN, ACTING REGISTER

COPYRIGHTS

Mr. Brown. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, my purpose is to give a brief review and outline of copyright as it has expanded to meet the current demands, and to show how we reached our present stage of copyright legislation for the protection of authors and artists, on the one hand, and safeguarding the interests of the public on the other. I will try not to burden you with unnecessary details.

There was a time when there was no conception of copyright in man's mind. Copyright in its present sense does not appear to have existed at all in medieval times. There was a system of licensing printers, but that was largely for raising revenue or for securing censorship.

We find that in the earlier times the first copyright law was enacted in England in 1710, under Queen Anne, and came about through the development in the art of printing and the constant increase in production of books during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

The statute of Anne, as it was called, was entitled "An act to encourage learning.” It required registration at the Stationers' Hall in London and a deposit of copies. It was intended to protect the printer of a book, to give him secured and sole rights in printing, protect him against unfair competition, and to guard the public against improper use of the privilege. The term was for 21 years.

The construction put upon this law by the court was that the author had exclusive right in perpetuity in his work prior to its publication, but after publication he could claim that right only during the period indicated and named in the law, and so it came

about through the enactment of this law that there was a distinct line of demarkation between the common law right, which protected a man's unpublished work prior to its being printed, and the copyright, which protected it after publication took place, and this line of distinction between common law right and copyright has continued until to-day and is observed in discussions on copyrights to this time. There is a clause in our present law confirming the common law right of the author in his work prior to publication.

Copyright was recognized at the very outset when the United States was formed as an independent nation. The Declaration provides, as you all know, “ Congress shall have power: To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

As early as 1783 a number of the original States had enacted State copyright laws. Those were the very beginning of our copyright legislation. The States included Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and in the ensuing years I think all the original States except, I believe, Delaware.

The CHAIRMAN. And they have the same laws that they do in England.

Mr. Brown. They were modeled largely after the statute of Anne. But these state-wide copyrights had to be secured in every State. This was cumbersome and called for Federal legislation. Our first Federal copyright act was enacted in 1790. It covered only maps, charts, and books. It required registration of the title prior to publication in the office of the clerk of the district court and a copy of the work, after publication, to be deposited with the Secretary of State. The term then was 14 years, with a possible renewal for 14 years, and a notice of copyright must be printed in some newspaper.

A general revision of this law was incorporated in the act of 1831. This law also required a deposit of the title in the office of the clerk of the court and deposit of the work, after publication, in the clerk's office. The first term was extended to 28 years, and musical compositions and engravings were added to the list of works protected by copyright. The CHAIRMAN. That was in 1828?

Mr. Brown. 1831, and it required a printed notice of copyright upon the title, or following the title-page of the work. The act of 1831 was amended by some eight slight amendments in the course of the following years, the 40s', the 50s', and 60s', so that up to 1870 some 12 copyright laws had been passed.

Then came the general revision of 1870, in the law covering the entire field, which became chapter 3 of title 60 of the Revised Statutes, adopted in 1873, it transferred the deposit of title and copies to the Library of Congress. It added dramatic compositions, photographs, prints, and fine arts to the list of works included, and it provided that no suit for infringement could be maintained in default of a printed notice of entry in the Library of Congress.

The copyright office itself was established by act of 1897, under the Librarian of Congress, and a new office, the register of copyrights, was established.

Up to this time copyrights had been granted only to American citizens. The act of 1891, the international copyright act as it came to be called, extended the privilege of copyright to foreign authors, requiring, however, that the book must be printed in the United States. The copyright secured by this act, however, could be extended to the author of a foreign country only upon condition that American authors were granted copyright privileges in the country of the foreign author upon substantially the same basis as they were granted to its own citizens. The act provided that no person could be entitled to copyright unless he had filed copy of his work previous to registration and had printed notice in all the copies of his work.

In 1909 the copyright law was again subject to a painstaking revision, after numerous conferences and hearings lasting over many years. The 1909 act abrogated the mandatory requirement for American printing of books of foreign origin in foreign languages. Photographs and chromes were also eliminated from the list required to be manufactured in the United States, but the requirement for manufacture of books in this country was still continued and was required to be supported by an affidavit of American printing. The importation of copies of a copyrighted work was prohibited during the entire term of copyright, with certain exceptions.

A fundamental change, however, came in 1909, in doing away with the preliminary filing of the title. Copyright was effected by publication, with notice, and was completed by deposit and registration of copies in the copyright office.

Among the problems requiring to be treated by copyright at this time was that of the mechanical reproduction of music by phonographs and similar machines. The composers demanded protection against the exploitation of their works in this way. The manufacturers wanted a free hand. The interests of the public must be looked after by somebody. It was a situation that must arise whenever a new means of transmission of an author's or artist's work is found, and is the condition which is facing us to-day.

Important amendments were incorporated in 1909, which accorded to composers the exclusive right to perform their music publicly for profit, the right to manufacture parts for mechanical reproduction, and the right to charge 2 cents for each part so manufactured.

The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Brown, at that time when the law was modified, no consideration was taken of radio whatsoever!

Mr. Brown. I think not. At that time radio had hardly attracted public notice. This was prior to radio activity.

The CHAIRMAN. And it was not conceived that the mechanical records or disks that were being perfected would be utilized perhaps 30 years later for reproduction purposes through the radio without giving protection to the composer or to the producer?

Mr. Brown. Presumably that was not conceived at all. Another new feature in the 1909 act was the extension of the renewal term to 28 years, which makes the entire term of copyright now 56 years.

Meantime the leading countries of Europe, through the convention at Berne, in 1886, since revised, organized the International Copyright Union, which provided that works which secured copyright in one of the countries were thereby automatically protected in all the other countries of the union. The United States has not joined this union. Our international copyright relations provide that in exchange for the extension to citizens of the United States of all rights with respect to literary and artistic property accorded by the laws

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of those countries to their own nationals, the rights and remedies granted by our copyright law are extended to foreign authors. The formalities and conditions prescribed by our law are binding upon the foreign author, including notice, the deposit of copies, and if the book is in the English language, it must be printed in the United States.

The existence of a condition for mutual protection is declared by presidential proclamation, and up to the present time the countries with which the United States has copyright relations, either by proclamation or otherwise, number 44. By the convention on literary and artistic copyright adopted at the Pan American conference, held at Buenos Aires in 1910, mutual copyright protection is declared between the United States and 12 Central and South American countries.

The CHAIRMAN. Does that mean if an American author writes a play which he has copyrighted here, in order to get it copyrighted in foreign countries he would have to place the individual copyright in all of those 40 countries?

Mr. Brown. In all the 40 countries. There is no provision at the present time whereby the work may be automatically protected in European countries.

The CHAIRMAN. This Berne convention of 1886 that started the International Copyright Union which tried to solve the international copyright problems, does that grant to every author the immediate right to institute suit for plagiarism in whatever country the product of his mind might have been stolen?

Mr. Brown. Yes, within the union. The CHAIRMAN. Subject to the laws of that country? Mr. BROWN. Yes, it is so understood. I was referring to the convention on literary and artistic property adopted by the Pan American Conference held at Buenos Aires in 1910. By that convention soutual copyright is declared as between the United States and 12 South American and Central American countries.

The CHAIRMAN. Have they automatic copyright down there?

Mr. Brown. This convention provides that, upon certain conditions, copyright in one co'ıntry is secured in the others.

The CHAIRMAN. What is the fundamental agreement between the South American Republics and our country, which was arrived at in the 1910 convention at Buenos Aires ?

Mr. Brown. The 1910 convention provides for mutual protection among the countries.

The CHAIRMAN. In which there is an automatic feature?
Mr. BROWN. It is so understood.

The CHAIRMAN. If they have an automatic copyright down there, can they come into this country without registration and sue and collect?

Mr. Brown. They must register.
The CHAIRMAN. They must register?
Mr. BROWN. They must register and abide by the rules here.

The agitation for the present revision of our copyright law began some five or six years ago, and a number of bills have been incorporated since. Many conferences and a good many hearings have been

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