The past and present of copyright:

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How did Libraries get where we are today?. Kevin L. Smith. As long as there have been humans,. There has been creativity. And a sense of control/ownership. Shrink-wrap from the book of Revelation. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them.... ID: 698122 Download Presentation

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The past and present of copyright:

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The past and present of copyright:

How did Libraries get where we are today?

Kevin L. Smith


As long as there have been humans,

There has been creativity

And a sense of control/ownership


Shrink-wrap from the book of Revelation

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.”


"Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited."


The story of Columba (521 – 597)

The monastery at Iona may have been born out of a copyright conflict.


Copyright & p

olitical control

In Venice, the first “

privelegio” was granted in 1469.Five year monopoly given by the Council to German printer Johannes of Speyer to establish a press in the city.

In 1474, Venice adopted a statute that formalized the system of monopoly privileges in order to prevent copying of “any new and ingenious device, not previously made.”


The Royal Company of Stationers

1558 bill in House of Lords to restrain the press

Required license (“Letters Patent”) from the King to print any book

1559 Articles of the Stationers gave guild responsibility to manage licenses

In 1566 the Star Chamber gave Stationers more active royal in controlling books to be printed.


Censorship and competition

Origin of copyright in Britain was censorship;


of printingStationer’s Company served as an instrument

“Entrance” into the Register BookAs the guild gained control, however, emphasis began to shift

Prevent competition to benefit guild members

Stationer’s copyright persisted for nearly 150 years!

Evolving distinction between printing and publishing

Controversies over the power of the Stationers from within, and renewed assertions of Royal censorship.


The Statute of Ann and


as an author’s right

Last “Licensing Act” expired in 1692

Publishing industry made several unsuccessful attempts to revive their monopoly.Statute of Anne in 1703Gave “authors or purchasers” the right to obtain a monopoly in their “copy.”

14 year term; 21 year extension for rights in existing works

Still uses “entrance into the Stationers’ Register” as standard mechanism

Protected against unauthorized printing of copies


Copyright in the colonies

Patronage and regulation of early printing

Printing privileges (1672-)

Monopoly rights unconnected to authorship

Wording suggests intent to protect from competitionFirst grants of privilege authors

MA failed to enact privilege for William Billings, 1770

CT did adopt Law’s privilege in 1781

Copyright” statute in Connecticut, 1783

Allowed general application for printing privilege by “gentlemen of genius”

Continental Congress recommended such laws in 1783


U.S. publishing in the 19th


Constitutional authorization for federal copyright law

Fist U.S. copyright Act in 1790

Forbade the recognition of foreign copyrights, as did later laws until 20th centuryAllowed free importation of foreign works

American publishing grew through printing British works without authorization or compensation.

Formal complaint from British authors in 1837

Charles Dickens & Oscar Wilde complained during U.S. visits

“Courtesy of trade” – cooperative economic control

Developed to protect investment against competition

Began to include payments to authors


© and deposit requirements

Registration and deposit have been required since 1790 Act

Initially with clerk of local district


Later with Library of CongressDeposit still required, but no teethCannot lose copyright do to failure

Proposal to move Copyright Office puts deposit “requirement” in question


International agreements

1891 Chace Act allowed foreigners to get U.S. copyright if such protection was reciprocal

Required printing in the U.S. (the “Manufacturing Clause”)

1909 Act also recognized © of foreign author living in U.S.

Universal Copyright Convention, 1952Closed the “backdoor” to Berne National treatment

Formalities met by notice, for foreign signatories

Berne Convention, 1988


Berne Provisions

National Treatment

No formalities / automatic protection

Minimum term of life plus 50Shorter minimums for photographs and films

Signatories can lengthen termHarmonizes protections, but not limitations or exceptionsMarrakesh Treaty (2013) was first agreement on L&E

Three-step test

TRIPS provides enforcement


Impact of Berne

Because copyright ALWAYS outlives creator, with no formalities to aid identification of rights holders,


Orphan Works!


Impact of Berne

Country of origin is important in Berne

Works published simultaneously in multiple nations

Rule of shorter termHow does this work with Internet publication?


Where we stand today

Issues created by the law

Excessive term of protection

Orphan worksExcessive damages

Due process concernExcessive inclusionUnable to account for the diversity of authors & reasons for creation

Our copyright law does what it was intended to do very well

It just has so many unintended consequences

Especially online!


Where we stand today

Issues created by technology


“Making available”Everyone is

An author& a publisher


Issues for libraries

Copyright worked in the print environment

Library functions were built in to the law

Today, so much of what we do involves copying.Can fair use bear the weight?

Mass digitization & orphan worksIs section 108 (ILL & preservation) so out-of-date that it must be fixed or repealed?Do libraries and Copyright Office have a conflict of interest?

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