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The 1874 Amendment to the Copyright Act of 1870

Enacted by the Forty-third Congress on June 18, 1874

This series reprints for your examination the actual copyright laws of the United States through 1909. In order to ascertain whether someone back then "stole" or "plagiarized" from others, one has to determine what was considered "stealing" and what was not. While a copyrighted book might be able to be stolen, a book already in the public domain could not be.

A brief discussion and summary follows the law below.

We have highlighted in yellow the pertinent portions of the law. To remove this highlighting, click .

AN ACT to amend the law relating to patents, trade marks, and copyrights.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no person shall maintain an action for the infringement of his copyright unless he shall give notice thereof by inserting in the several copies of every edition published, on the title page or the page immediately following, if it be a book; or if a map, chart, musical composition, print, cut, engraving, photograph, painting, drawing, chromo, statue, statuary, or model or design intended to be perfected and completed as a work of the fine arts, by inscribing upon some visible portion thereof, or of the substance on which the same shall be mounted, the following words, viz: "Entered according to act of Congress, in the year _________________, by A. B., in the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington;" or, at his option the word "Copyright," together with the year the copyright was entered, and the name of the party by whom it was taken out; thus—"Copyright, 18_________________, by A. B."

SEC. 2. That for recording and certifying any instrument of writing for the assignment of a copyright, the Librarian of Congress shall receive from the persons to whom the service is rendered, one dollar; and for every copy of an assignment, one dollar; said fee to cover, in either case, a certificate of the record, under seal of the Librarian of Congress; and all fees so received shall be paid into the Treasury of the United States.

SEC. 3. That in the construction of this act, the words "Engraving," "cut" and "print"shall be applied only to pictorial illustrations or works connected with the fine arts, and no prints or labels designed to be used for any other articles of manufacture shall be entered under the copyright law, but may be registered in the Patent Office. And the Commissioner of Patents is hereby charged with the supervision and control of the entry or registry of such prints or labels, in conformity with the regulations provided by law as to copyright of prints, except that there shall be paid for recording the title of any print or label not a trade mark, six dollars, which shall cover the expense of furnishing a copy of the record under the seal of the Commissioner of Patents, to the party entering the same.

SEC. 4. That all laws and parts of laws inconsistent with the foregoing provisions be and the same are hereby repealed.

SEC. 5. That this act shall take effect on and after the first day of August, eighteen hundred and seventy-four.

The Revision of 1870 was here amended to allow for a shorter copyright notice, and to exclude from copyright protection all pictures not being used in publications or in the "fine arts."

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