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Chapter XVI Copyright in Territorial Possessions of

United States

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Canal Zone

By Executive Order effective April 15, 1907, the patent, trade mark, and copyright laws of the United States were extended to and made effective within the Canal Zone, “to the extent that any patent or copyright issued under the laws of the United States, or any trade mark duly registered in the Patent Office

the United States, shall vest in the person to whom issued or in whose name registered, his assigns and licensees, subject to the protection of the Circuit and Supreme Courts of the Canal Zone, the same exclusive right of property therein that such person would possess in the United States.” (Circular No. 30, March 15, 1907, issued by the Isthmian Canal Commission).


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In 1900 Congress passed "An act to provide a government for the Territory of Hawaii” (31 St. L. 141), repealing the Hawaiian Copyright Act of 1888 and providing that the copyright laws of the United States shall be in force in that Territory. Philippine Islands

In an opinion rendered by the Attorney General of the United States, 25 Op. Att. Gen. 179 (1904), it was held that the copyright laws of the United States were effective in those Islands and that the inhabitants thereof were entitled to take advantage of those laws. Congress must be deemed to have sanctioned this ruling when it provided in section 34 of the Copyright Act of 1909 that “all actions, suits, or proceedings arising under the copyright laws of the United States shall be originally cognizable by ... the courts of first instance of the Philippine Islands." The Attorney General held, however, that the inhabitants of those Islands must, in order to secure protection in the United States, comply with the type-setting requirements of the law and print or reprint their books in the United States.

In 1924 the Philippine legislature enacted a copyright law (designated Act No. 3134), and the question at once arose whether the copyright laws of the United States were any longer applicable to those Islands. There were differences of opinion on this point, both in the courts and in official circles over there. The question came up acutely later on in connection with the importation of cheap piratical copies, printed in Shanghai, of books by American authors duly copyrighted under the laws of the United States but with respect to which no action had been taken under the Philippine Act of 1924.

In a well-considered opinion by the Philippine Secretary of Justice under date of January 8, 1941, the conclusion was reached that (1) the primary purpose of the local Act No. 3134 of 1924 was to relieve Filipino and American citizens in the Philippines of the necessity of taking action under the copyright laws of the United States if their only desire is to secure protection for their works within the territorial limits of the Philippine Islands; (2) that notwithstanding the local Act of 1924, the copyright laws of the United States were still applicable to the Philippines; and (3) the importation of pirated copies of books copyrighted in the United States may be prohibited under the provisions of sections 30, 31, 32 and 33 of the Copyright Act of 1909 and the United States customs regulations issued in connection therewith.

In accordance with this opinion, the Insular Collector of Customs, at Manila, was instructed to refuse entry into the Philippines of such piratical copies, even though no action had been taken under the local Act of 1924. Puerto Rico

United States Code, Title 48, section 734, provides that “The statutory laws of the United States, not locally inapplicable . shall have the same force and effect in Puerto Rico as in the United States, except the internal revenue laws." This undoubtedly extends to citizens and residents of Puerto Rico the benefit of the copyright laws on the same basis as to citizens and residents of continental United States. Upon cession to the United

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States, the island ceased to be a “foreign" country. DeLina v.
Bidwell, 182 U.S. 1 (1900); Gonzales v. Williams, 192 U.S. 1
Virgin Islands

Public Act No. 749, 74th Congress (effective June 22, 1936), "to provide a civil government for the Virgin Islands of the United States”, states in section 18 that “the laws of the United States relating to patents, trade marks, and copyrights, and to the enforcement of rights arising thereunder, shall have the same force and effect in the Virgin Islands as in the continental United States, and the District Court of the Virgin Islands shall have the same jurisdiction in causes arising under such laws as is exercised by the United States District Courts."

These various measures leave it in doubt whether or not the inhabitants of these several territories must have their books printed within the limits of continental United States in order to obtain copyright protection. Except as to the Philippines, no official or judicial pronouncement on the question is found. But inasmuch as they constitute "parts" of the United States for the purpose of making deposit of copies on demand of the Register (sec. 13 of Copyright Act), the logical inference would be that local printing would suffice.

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