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Copyright Act of 1909

An Act to Amend and Consolidate

the Acts Respecting Copyrights Being the Act approved March 4, 1909, effective July 1, 1909, 35 Stat. 1075 et seq., as amended to January 1, 1942 (U.S. Code, Title 17; Copyright Office Bulletin No. 14, ed. 1942).

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

[Exclusive rights as to copyright works.]* That any person entitled thereto, upon complying with the provisions of this Act, shall have the exclusive right:

(a) To print, reprint, publish, copy, and vend the copyrighted work;

(b) To translate the copyrighted work into other languages or dialects, or make any other version thereof, if it be a literary work; to dramatize it if it be a nondramatic work; to convert it into a novel or other nondramatic work if it be a drama; to arrange or adapt it if it be a musical work; to complete, execute, and finish it if it be a model or design for a work of art;

(c) To deliver or authorize the delivery of the copyrighted work in public for profit if it be a lecture, sermon, address, or similar production;

(d) To perform or represent the copyrighted work publicly if it be a drama or, if it be a dramatic work and not reproduced in copies for sale, to vend any manuscript or any record whatsoever thereof; to make or to procure the making of any transcription or record thereof by or from which, in whole or in part, it may in any manner or by any method be exhibited, performed, represented, produced, or reproduced; and to exhibit, perform, represent, produce, or reproduce it in any manner or by any method whatsoever;

(e) To perform the copyrighted work publicly for profit if it be a musical composition; and for the purpose of public performance for profit,1 and for the purposes set forth in subsection (a) hereof, to make any arrangement or setting of it or of the melody of it in any system of notation or any form of record in which the thought of an author may be recorded and from which it may be read or reproduced: Provided, That the provisions of this Act, so far as they secure copyright controlling the parts of instruments serving to reproduce mechanically the musical work, shall include only compositions published and copyrighted after July 1, 1909, and shall not include the works of a foreign author or composer unless the foreign state or nation of which such author or composer is a citizen or subject grants, either by treaty, convention, agreement, or law, to citizens of the United States similar rights: And provided further, and as a condition of extending the copyright control to such mechanical reproductions, That whenever the owner of a musical copyright has used or permitted or knowingly acquiesced in the use of the copyrighted work upon the parts of instruments serving to reproduce mechanically the musical work, any other person may make similar use of the copyrighted work upon the payment to the copyright proprietor of a royalty of two cents on each such part manufactured, to be paid by the manufacturer thereof; and the copyright proprietor may require, and if so the manufacturer shall furnish, a report under oath on the twentieth day of each month on the number of parts of instruments manufactured during the previous month serving to reproduce mechanically said musical work, and royalties shall be due on the parts manufactured during any month upon the twentieth of the next succeeding month. The payment of the royalty provided for by this section shall free the articles or devices for which such royalty has been paid from further contribution to the copyright except in case of public performance for profit: And provided further, That it shall be the duty of the copyright owner, if he uses the musical composition himself for the manufacture of parts of instruments serving to reproduce mechanically the musical work, or licenses others to do so, to file notice thereof, accompanied by a recording fee, in the copyright office, and any failure to file such notice shall be a complete defense to any suit, action, or proceeding for any infringement of such copyright.

* Ed. Note-Bracketed section headings are those used in U. S. Code, Title 17; the Copyright Act of 1909 itself did not contain section headings.

1 As printed in U. S. Code, Title 17, section 1, subsection (e), lines one to three read: “To perform the copyrighted work publicly for profit if it be a musical composition and for the purpose of public performance for profit; and for the purposes set forth in subsection (a) hereof * * *." As printed here the text agrees with the construction placed thereon by Mayer, J., in Hubbell v. Royal Pastime Amusement Co., DC S. N. Y., 242 F. 1002-1003.

In case of the failure of such manufacturer to pay to the copyright proprietor within thirty days after demand in writing the full sum of royalties due at said rate at the date of such demand the court may award taxable costs to the plaintiff and a reasonable counsel fee, and the court may, in its discretion, enter judgment therein for any sum in addition over the amount found to be due as royalty in accordance with the terms of this Act, not exceeding three times such amount.

The reproduction or rendition of a musical composition by or upon coinoperated machines shall not be deemed a public performance for profit unless a fee is charged for admission to the place where such reproduction or rendition occurs.

SEC. 2. [Rights of author or proprietor of unpublished work.] That nothing in this Act shall be construed to annul or limit the right of the author or proprietor of an unpublished work, at common law or in equity, to prevent the copying, publication, or use of such unpublished work without his consent, and to obtain damages therefor.

SEC. 3. [Protection of component parts of work copyrighted; composite works or periodicals.] That the copyright provided by this Act shall protect all the copyrightable component parts of the work copyrighted, and all matter therein in which copyright is already subsisting, but without extending the duration or scope of such copyright. The copyright upon composite works or periodicals shall give to the proprietor thereof all the rights in respect thereto which he would have if each part were individually copyrighted under this Act.

SEC. 4. [All writings of author included.] That the works for which copyright may be secured under this Act shall include all the writings of an author.

SEC. 5. [Classification of works for registration.] That the application for registration shall specify to which of the following classes the work in which copyright is claimed belongs:

(a) Books, including composite and cyclopaedic works, directories, gazetteers, and other compilations;

(b) Periodicals, including newspapers; (c) Lectures, sermons, addresses (prepared for oral delivery); (d) Dramatic or dramatico-musical compositions; (e) Musical compositions; (f) Maps; (g) Works of art; models or designs for works of art; (h) Reproductions of a work of art; (i) Drawings or plastic works of a ntific or technical character; (j) Photographs;

(k) Prints and pictorial illustrations including prints or labels used for articles of merchandise; [As amended by Act of July 31, 1939, 53 Stat. 1142]

(1) Motion-picture photoplays;

(m) Motion pictures other than photoplays: [Classes (1) and (m) added by Act of Aug. 24, 1912, 37 Stat. 488]

Provided, nevertheless, That the above specifications shall not be held to limit the subject-matter of copyright as defined in section four of this Act, nor shall any error in classification invalidate or impair the copyright protection secured under this Act.

SEC. 6. [Copyright on compilations of works in public domain or of copyrighted works; subsisting copyrights not affected.] That compilations or abridgments, adaptations, arrangements, dramatizations, translations, or other versions of works in the public domain, or of copyrighted works when produced with the consent of the proprietor of the copyright in such works, or works republished with new matter, shall be regarded as new works subject to copyright under the provisions of this Act; but the publication of any such new works shall not affect the force or validity of any subsisting copyright upon the matter employed or any part thereof, or be construed to imply an exclusive right to such use of the original works, or to secure or extend copyright in such original works.

SEC. 7. [Copyright not to subsist in works in public domain, or published prior to July 1, 1909, and not already copyrighted, or Government publica. tions; publication by Government of copyrighted material.] That no copyright shall subsist in the original text of any work which is in the public domain, or in any work which was published in this country or any foreign country prior to July 1, 1909, and has not been already copyrighted in the United States, or in any publication of the United States Government, or any reprint, in whole or in part, thereof: Provided, however, That the publication or republication by the Government, either separately or in a public document, of any material in which copyright is subsisting shall not be taken to cause any abridgment or annulment of the copyright or to authorize any use or appropriation of such copyright material without the consent of the copyright proprietor.

SEC. 8. [Authors or proprietors, entitled; aliens.] That the author or proprietor of any work made the subject of copyright by this Act, or his executors, administrators, or assigns, shall have copyright for such work under the conditions and for the terms specified in this Act: Provided, however, That the copyright secured by this Act shall extend to the work of an author or proprietor who is a citizen or subject of a foreign state or nation, only:

(a) When an alien author or proprietor shall be domiciled within the United States at the time of the first publication of his work; or

(b) When the foreign state or nation of which such author or proprietor is a citizen or subject grants, either by treaty, convention, agreement, or law, to citizens of the United States the benefit of copyright on substantially the same basis as to its own citizens, or copyright protection substantially equal to the protection secured to such foreign author under this Act or by treaty; or when such foreign state or nation is a party to an international agreement which provides for reciprocity in the granting of copyright, by the terms of which agreement the United States may, at its pleasure, become a party thereto.

The existence of the reciprocal conditions aforesaid shall be determined by the President of the United States, by proclamation made from time to time, as the purposes of this Act may require: Provided, That whenever the President shall find that the authors, copyright owners, or proprietors of works first produced or published abroad and subject to copyright or to renewal of copyright under the laws of the United States, including works subject to ad interim copyright, are or may have been temporarily unable to comply with the conditions and formalities prescribed with respect to such works by the copyright laws of the United States, because of the disruption or suspension of facilities essential for such compliance, he may by proclamation grant such extension of time as he may deem appropriate for the fulfillment of such conditions or formalities by authors, copyright owners, or proprietors who are citizens of the United States or who are nationals of countries which accord substantially equal treatment in this respect to authors, copyright owners, or proprietors who are citizens of the United States: Provided further, That no liability shall attach under the Copyright Act for lawful uses made or acts done prior to the effective date of such proclamation in connection with such works, or in respect to the continuance for one year subsequent to such date of any business undertaking or enterprise lawfully undertaken prior to such date involving expenditure or contractual obligation in connection with the exploitation, production, reproduction, circulation, or performance of any such work. [Proviso added by Act of Sept. 25, 1941, Public Law 258, 77th Cong.]

The President may at any time terminate any proclamation authorized herein or any part thereof or suspend or extend its operation for such period or periods of time as in his judgment the interests of the United States may require.

SEC. 9. [Publication of work with notice.] That any person entitled thereto by this Act may secure copyright for his work by publication thereof with the notice of copyright required by this Act; and such notice shall be affixed to each copy thereof published or offered for sale in the United States by authority of the copyright proprietor, except in the case of books seeking ad interim protection under section twenty-one of this Act.

SEC. 10. [Registration of claim and issuance of certificate.] That such person may obtain registration of his claim to copyright by complying with the provisions of this Act, including the deposit of copies, and upon such compliance the register of copyrights shall issue to him the certificate provided for in section fifty-five of this Act.

SEC. 11. [Works not reproduced for sale.] That copyright may also be had of the works of an author of which copies are not reproduced for sale,

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