History of Copyright Law in the U.S.

Copyright Protection History of Copyright Law in the U.S.

A Brief History of Copyright Law in the U.S.

You can easily learn how to copyright and every other significant part of how copyright works by googling it.

Copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), make sure that your work is safe from copyright infringement and offer numerous possible ways of dealing with it. You can claim copyright or write a copyright notice in under a minute nowadays.

That was not always the case. Copyright law had to undergo some changes to get to the point where it is now.


When Was the Copyright Law Introduced?

The history of copyright law in the U.S. is long and complicated, and it began in 1790.

It all started much earlier, with the introduction of the printing press in England, in the late 15th century.

The more printing presses there were, the bigger was the need for a system that would regulate the rights of the owners. Authorities ended up controlling the publication of the books by granting a monopoly to the printers.

Years 1783 to 1787 were the key period for copyright in America. Several states passed their copyright laws during that time, the first-ever in Connecticut.

The Copyright Act of 1790 represents the first exercising of the copyright powers by Congress. This act granted exclusive rights to authors to publish and vend maps, charts, and books.

These rights lasted for 14 years, and the term was renewable for additional 14 years.

The act did not prohibit copying the work of foreign authors, nor it regulated other types of writing, like newspaper and music compositions.

The Most Notable Copyright Acts

After the copyright act of 1790 was established, Congress has amended copyright law numerous times. Here is a brief overview of those amendments and the ways they improved the original act:

Copyright Act of 1831 Extended the term of copyright protection to 28 years, with the 14-year renewal 
Copyright Act of 1909 Extended the renewal to 28 years

Copyright Act of 1976

  • Extended the term to 75 years or the life of the author, plus additional 50 years
  • Extended federal copyright protection to unpublished works
Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 Established copyrights of works from the U.S. in Berne Convention countries

Copyright Renewal Act of 1992

Removed requirements for renewal

Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998

  • Extended terms to 95 or 120 years or a life of the author, plus additional 70 years
  • It is used presently to determine how long copyright lasts
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 Established the notice-and-takedown regime and criminalized certain cases of copyright infringement
Music Modernization Act (MMA) of 2018 Modernized music-related copyright issues to address technological developments such as digital streaming 

The U.S. copyright law is now part of various international agreements. The most notable agreements that affect the U.S. copyright law are:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA is the U.S. copyright law that implements two treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It was established to regulate copyright issues developing online and to criminalize copyright infringement. 

The DMCA grants protection to copyright owners by enabling notice-and-takedown actions. The takedown notices handle copyright violation and work against the stealing of the copyrighted content on the internet.

This act also protects online service providers (OSP) through a set of provisions known as the DMCA Safe Harbors. These provisions protect OSP’s from copyright infringement liability that their users often commit.

History of Copyright Infringement—Some Famous Cases

Copyright infringement is a common occurrence in the entertainment industry due to many gray areas and creative arguments. The more famous the subject, the bigger the issue becomes.

Here are some of the most famous copyright infringement cases.

Vanilla Ice vs. David Bowie/Freddie Mercury (1990) 

This one is the copyright infringement case that taught all of us that violation of the copyright transpires even in samples of the song, especially if the song is as famous as Under Pressure. Vanilla Ice used the bassline from Under Pressure for his song Ice Ice Baby, but later denied accusations, claiming it was “a joke.” 

The case was later settled privately with Vanilla Ice crediting the authors and paying for the damage.

Star Wars vs. Battlestar Galactica (1978)

Involving Star Wars, one of the greatest movie franchises, this one is the probably most famous copyright infringement case. 20th Century Fox sued Universal Studios, claiming that they stole 34 distinct ideas from Star Wars, including the character named Skyler. 

The case was remanded and not long after settled, but not before Battlestar Galactica was canceled.

Apple vs. Microsoft (1988)

This marks the case of a lawsuit between the two biggest rivals that lasted for six years. The biggest part of the lawsuit was the invention of the graphical user interface (GUI). Microsoft won the case, but it remains one of the well-known copyright infringement lawsuits in history.

The Role of DoNotPay in Fighting Copyright Infringement

Years of copyright cases, additions to established acts, and various agreements with other countries have been made, and yet, copyright infringement is still at large. You can fight it in several ways, one of which is the DMCA takedown service. 

Writing a DMCA takedown notice on your own can be overwhelming. It requires a vast knowledge of the topic and the use of legal terms that you may not be familiar with. Besides that, web hosts usually don’t handle poorly-written notices.

DoNotPay, the world’s first robot lawyer, is here to help you with the process. You can create a takedown notice without wasting your time on research or your money on copyright attorneys.

Open DoNotPay in your web browser and let us guide you through the process:

  1. Choose the DMCA Takedown feature
  2. Provide crucial information about the original content and infringement
  3. Verify your identity and account info
  4. Hit Sign and Submit

It sounds simple because it is! We will send the DMCA takedown notice to the web host of the infringing content on your behalf. You can keep track of the progress in the My Disputes tab.

How Else Can DoNotPay Be of Service?

One of the many benefits of using DoNotPay is that you can get assistance for dealing with any administrative problems you may have. 

If you need help with making a copyright claim or taking down stolen content from YouTube, we can tell you more about YouTube copyright policy or show you how to copyright a song, video, or write a disclaimer for your work there.

The same goes for other platforms, such as Google, Facebook, or Instagram.

Open DoNotPay in your web browser if you have a specific problem you would like to solve or check out below how we can help you with: