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Copyright Law
Boston College Law School
January 9, 2003
Requirements - Fixation
Copyright Law Timeline
• 1556: Stationers’ Guild
– Right to publish given to publishing houses
– Content heavily regulated by government
• 1710: Statute of Anne
– Right to make copies given to authors
– Term: 14 years, plus 14 year renewal; certain formalities
• 1776: State Copyright Laws
– Modeled on Statute of Anne
– Numerous conflicting requirements
– Constitutional grant of authority
Copyright Law Timeline
• U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 8:
– “To promote the progress of science and the
useful arts, by securing for limited times to
authors and inventors the exclusive right to
their respective writings and discoveries ”
Copyright Timeline (cont.)
• 1790: First Federal Copyright Act
– 14 years plus 14 year renewal
– Originally books, but expanded to prints, music, photos, etc.
• 1909: First Major Overhaul
– 28 years, plus 28 year renewal
– Expanded to encompass all writings
• 1976: Latest Major Overhaul
– Life + 50, or 75 years for corporate authors
– Formalities loosened
Copyright Timeline (cont.)
• Recent Amendments to 1976 Act
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1980: Computer Software included
1988: Berne ratified; formalities eliminated
1990: Architectural Works protected
1992: Audio Home Recording Act
1998: Sony Bono Term Extension + Digital
Millennium Copyright Act
Copyright Timeline (cont.)
• Trends
– Steady trend of expansion of protection
• Covered works (from just books/maps to all works)
• Scope of rights (from copying to adaptation, perf., …)
• Duration (from 14 years to life plus 70)
– Increasing complexity
• Originally generalist approach
• Now much more detailed and industry-specific
17 U.S.C. § 102
• (a) Copyright protection subsists,… in original works of
authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, ….
Works of authorship include the following categories:
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(1) literary works;
(2) musical works, …;
(3) dramatic works;
(4) pantomimes and choreographic works;
(5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
(6) motion pictures and other audio visual works;
(7) sound recordings; and
(8) architectural works
White-Smith v. Apollo
Fixation
• 17 U.S.C. § 101:
– “A work is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium of
expression when its embodiment in a copy … ,
by or under the authority of the author, is
sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to
be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise
communicated for a period of more than
transitory duration.”
Fixation
• Possible justifications
– Constitutionally required
– Defines scope of the entitlement
• Avoids unreasonable liability
• Evidentiary value in infringement action
– Evidence of commercial importance of work
– Marks point at which copying is problematic
Midway v. Artic
Assignment for Next Class
• Read II.B.1 - Originality - Basic Concepts
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