The 1909 Copyright Act in International Context

31 Pages Posted: 10 May 2010 Last revised: 13 May 2010

See all articles by Daniel J. Gervais

Daniel J. Gervais

Vanderbilt University - Law School

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

Suggested Citation

Gervais, Daniel J., The 1909 Copyright Act in International Context (May 10, 2010). Santa Clara Computer and High Technology Law Journal, Vol. 26, 2010; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 10-23. Available at SSRN:

Daniel J. Gervais (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615 322 2615 (Phone)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics