Copyright protection for individuals dates back to England under the Licensing of the Press Act of 1662. The Act originally provided protection for printers and for printed material. When the colonists arrived in America, the Licensing of the Press Act of 1662 was in effect because they were under England’s rule.
However, with the American Revolution, the country broke away from England’s rule and created a new set of guidelines for copyrighted material. The government has made it easier to perfect copyrighted material because they no longer need to be filed by lawyers; they can be filed by professionals who have completed paralegal studies.
Here is a timeline of important events pertaining to copyrighted material:
· 1787 - U.S. Constitution - According to Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution, "the Congress shall have power … to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."
· 1790 - Copyright Act - The First Congress implemented the copyright provision of the U.S. Constitution in 1790. The Copyright Act of 1790, to encourage learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and other material.
· 1831 - Revision of the Copyright Act - The term of defense of copyrighted material was extended to twenty-eight years with the possibility of an additional fourteen-year extension.
· 1870: Revision of Copyright Act - The administration of copyright registrations changed from the individual district courts to the Library of Congress Copyright Office. The term of protection was not extended in this revision.
· 1909: Revision of the U.S. Copyright Act - The bill broadened the range of protected categories to include works of authors and extended the term of protection to twenty-eight years with a possible renewal of twenty-eight.
· 1976: Revision of the U.S. Copyright Act - The 1976 revision was undertaken because of the technological developments and their impact on what might be copyrighted, how works might be copied, and what constituted an infringement needed to be addressed, among other reasons.
· 1990: Circulation of Computer Software - Congress amended the Copyright Act to prohibit commercial lending of computer software.
· 1992: Amendment to Section 304 of Title 17 – This amendment made renewal of copyrights automatic.
· 1996: Database Protection Legislation - The legislation was comparable to a European-sponsored initiative to protect databases from unauthorized extractions for fifteen years.
· 1998: Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act - The law extended protection from life of the author plus fifty years to life of the author plus seventy years.
· 1998: Digital Millennium Copyright Act – The law dealt with many aspects of digital communications.
· 1999: Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 – This law significantly increases the penalties for digital copyright infringement.
· 2005: Family Entertainment and Copyright Act – The law created criminal penalties for individuals who record motion pictures in a theater or for individuals who distribute unpublished works, such as movies or software.
As the world has changed, so have the copyright laws and regulations that govern the use of trademarks in the United States. Undoubtedly, more changes will be made to protect the interests of all Americans as the country continues to evolve.
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