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Washington, D. C., October 15, 1904. The copyright legislation of the United States has extended over more than a hundred years, the first Federal law having been enacted in 1790 and the last in 1904, while prior to the passing of the first Federal statute (between 1783 and 1786) all but one of the original thirteen states had enacted laws to secure the rights of authors.
During this period of considerably more than a century of Federal legislation, twenty-five public acts relating wholly or in part to copyright have been passed, together with nine private copyright acts. In addition to the bills introduced which thus became laws, a great many copyright measures have been presented to Congress which were never enacted. This proposed legislation is very interesting, and a careful study of it is recommended in relation to the suggested codification of our present copyright statutes. Altogether more than two hundred copyright bills have been laid before Congress for its consideration. Some of these bills have received no attention, others have been given some regard, while a few have secured considerable attention and discussion. Public interest in these proposed measures is shown and has been made known to Congress by numerous petitions and memorials relating to copyright from private individuals, business and labor organizations, teachers, college professors, librarians, and representatives
of the press.
In the following pages is presented an attempt at a complete bibliography of all the bills relating to copyright which have been introduced to Congress, the resolutions and laws which have been enacted, and those reports, petitions, memorials, messages, and miscellaneous copyright
documents which have been printed, together with a complete clironological record of all action taken in Congress in any way relating to the subject of copyright, showing how each proposal has been dealt with.
In order to make the record as complete as possible, such bills as have been introduced in this present Congress and which are still pending are reprinted in full with their accompanying reports.
I desire to publicly acknowledge here the constant friendly assistance received in connection with all questions relating to bills, reports, and other Congressional documents from Mr. Amzi Smith, the long-time superintendent of the Senate document room. It is a pleasure also to express my cordial appreciation of the admirable spirit in which the tedious and laborious work of compilation has been carried out by the members of the Copyright Office force who have been more directly concerned in its preparation, especially Mrs. Harriet deK. Woods, Miss Anna C. Kelton, and Miss Pearl Goodman, also Miss Rosa Laddon, who has prepared the excellent index.
Register of Copyrights. HERBERT PUTNAM,
Librarian of Congress.
P. S.-During the printing of this Bulletin the record of Congressional action has been brought down to January 27, 1905, inclusive. T. S.
It is generally admitted by those most concerned that our copyright laws need revision. The fact that no less than five distinct copyright measures were brought before Congress at its last session is evidence of this need. The question arises how the defects and limitations of the present statutes, as well as such changes as may be deemed desirable, can best receive the careful and adequate consideration required. It is doubtful if the enactment of further merely partial or temporizing legislation will afford satisfactory remedies for the insufficiencies and inconsistencies of the present laws. The subject should be dealt with as a whole, and the insufficient and antiquated laws now in force be replaced by one consistent, liberal, and adequate statute.
The laws as they stand fail to give the protection required, are difficult of interpretation, application, and administration, leading to misapprehension and misunderstanding, and in some directions are open to abuses. During more than a century of legislation upon this subject a highly technical copyright system has been developed, under which valuable literary and artistic property rights have come to depend upon exact compliance with statutory formalities which have in reality nothing to do with the equitable rights involved, and the defense of such property against infringement may be rendered nugatory by reason of failure to fully comply with purely arbitrary requirements. This necessity of explicit compliance with certain statutory stipulations as a prerequisite to protection distinguishes our copyright legislation from that of all other countries, and the question should be met whether this condition ought to be continued. Many other important and difficult questions arise in relation to the amendment of the
copyright laws, and it is again recommended that Congress appoint a commission, adequately representing the different interests concerned, to prepare a draft of a satisfactory codified copyright statute to be submitted for its consideration.
II. PROPOSED LEGISLATION
In addition to the Interim Copyright Bill, which was passed and approved on January 7, 1904, five distinct copyright measures were presented to the present Congress for its consideration. These were treated in various bills and reports, but failed of enactment into law. The provisions of these bills may be briefly summarized as follows:
a. Copyright protection for translations of foreign books
Senate bill, no. On November 16, 1903, Senator Platt, of Connecticut, 849
introduced “A bill to amend chapter forty-nine hundred
others.' Senate bill, no. An error having occurred in the first page of this bill as
originally printed, it was ordered reprinted on December 8, 1903, as Senate bill no. 2229," and was reported by Senator Clapp, from the Senate Committee on Patents, on January 8, 1904, with the recommendation “that it pass without
amendment." House bill, no. This same measure was introduced in the House of Rep6487
resentatives by Mr. Currier, of New Hampshire, on Decem
a For full text of this bill see pp. 12, 13.
ber 9, 1903, and was referred to the House Committee on Patents and ordered to be printed as House bill no. 6487, entitled "A bill to amend chapter forty-nine hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes." The bill was reported to the House by the Committee on Patents on March 1, 1904, with amendments, and was referred to the House Calendar and ordered printed, and was reprinted without change of number," the report being also printed as House report no. 1287. The amendment proposed by the Committee on Patents (in addition to the shifting of some commas, and the changing of “chapter 4952” to “section 4952” in the title of the bill) is the addition of a proviso to the effect that the act
'shall only apply to a citizen or subject of a foreign state or nation when such foreign state or nation permits to citizens of the United States of America the benefit of copyright on the same basis as is given to its citizens by this act.” Congress adjourned without further action by either House on this bill.c
b. Free text-books A bill to establish a series of free text-books to be used House bili, no. in the public schools of the United States was introduced 9297 by Mr. Knapp, of New York, on January 8, 1904, and was referred to the House Committee on Education and ordered printed. It appears as House bill no. 9297 of the Fiftyeighth Congress, second session, and is printed in full on pages 18–20.
The bill was not reported back to the House.
c. Checks, vouchers, certificates, or other business forms Mr. Bartholdt, of Missouri, introduced, on January 8, House bills, 1904, "by request," "A bill to amend title sixty, chapter nos. 9324, 11450 three, of the Revised Statutes of the United States, relating to copyrights,” which was referred to the House Committee on Patents and ordered printed. It appeared as House bill no. 9324, and on January 30 was reintroduced, slightly altered, and reprinted as House bill no. 11450." The pur
a For full text of this bill see pp. 14, 15.
c Favorably reported to the House of Representatives, December 14, 1904, see P. 377; favorably reported to the Senate, with an amendment, January 27, 1905, see p. 386.
d For full text of this bill see pp. 20-22.