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1905 Amendment to U.S. Copyright Law

Enacted by the Fifty-eighth Congress on March 3, 1905

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 section forty-nine hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section forty-nine hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes be, and the same is hereby, amended so as to read as follows:

"SEC. 4952. The author, inventor, designer, or proprietor of any book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition, engraving, cut, print, or photograph, or negative thereof, or of a painting, drawing, chromo, statue, statuary, and of models or designs intended to be perfected as works of the fine arts, and the executors, administrators, or assigns of any such person shall, upon complying with the provisions of this chapter, have the sole liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, completing, copying, executing, finishing, and vending the same; and, in the case of a dramatic composition, of publicly performing or representing it, or causing it to be performed or represented by others. And authors or their assigns shall have exclusive right to dramatize or translate any of their works for which copyright shall have been obtained under the laws of the United States.

"Whenever the author or proprietor of a book in a foreign language, which shall be published in a foreign country before the day of publication in this country, or his executors, administrators, or assigns, shall deposit one complete copy of the same, including all maps and other illustrations, in the Library of Congress, Washington, District of Columbia, within thirty days after the first publication of such book in a foreign country, and shall insert in such copy, and in all copies of such book sold or distributed in the United States, on the title page or the page immediately following, a notice of the reservation of copyright in the name of the proprietor, together with the true date of first publication of such book, in the following words: 'Published _________________, nineteen hundred and _________________ Privilege of copyright in the United States reserved under the Act approved _________________, nineteen hundred and five, by _________________,' and shall, within twelve months after the first publication of such book in a foreign country, file the title of such book and deposit two copies of it in the original language or, at his option, of a translation of it in the English language, printed from type set within the limits of the United States, or from plates made therefrom, containing a notice of copyright, as provided by the copyright laws now in force, he and they shall have during the term of twenty-eight years from the date of recording the title of the book or of the English translation of it, as provided for above, the sole liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, vending, translating and dramatizing the said book: Provided, That this Act shall only apply to a citizen or subject of a foreign State or nation when such foreign State or nation permits to citizens of the United States of America the benefit of copyright on substantially the same basis as to its own citizens."

This act made the time frame for depositing a foreign work at the Library of Congress much more reasonable, but only if that work was in another language than English. For such works the author now had 30 days after publication abroad to deposit a copy of the title, and a year after publication to deposit two copies printed with American type or plates.

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