The 1909 Copyright Act in International Context
31 Pages Posted: 10 May 2010 Last revised: 13 May 2010
Date Written: May 10, 2010
The passage of the 1909 U.S. Copyright Act was embedded in a significant period of evolution for international copyright law. Just a year before, the Berne Convention had been revised for the second time. This Berlin (1908) Act of the Convention in remembered in particular for the introduction of a broad prohibition against formalities concerning the “exercise and enjoyment” of copyright. 1909 was also just one year before a new copyright bill was brought before the British Parliament. This Copyright Act, finally adopted in December 1911 and which entered into force in July 1, 1912, greatly influenced laws in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Nigeria, and South Africa.
In this Essay, I situate the Berlin Act within the framework of the evolution of the Berne Convention from 1886 until the current 1971 Act and explore the role played by the United States, not as much as a participant in the Berlin Conference but by the way its actions influenced the actions of others. To this end, I discuss sequentially the emergence and evolution of the Berne Convention, and then two areas worthy of deeper analysis when considered against the backdrop of the 1909 Act, namely the prohibition against formalities and the rule imposing retroactive application of the Convention.
Keywords: 1909 Copyright Act, formalities, Berne Convention, Berlin Conference, 1911 Copyright Act
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