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Return to https://www.TruthOrFables.net/copyright_law_us_1802.htm.

The 1802 Amendment to the Copyright Act of 1790

Enacted by the Seventh Congress on April 29, 1802

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 supplementary to an act, intituled "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books to the authors and proprietors of such copies during the time therein mentioned," and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That every person who shall, from and after the first day of January next, claim to be the author or proprietor of any maps, charts, book or books, and shall thereafter seek to obtain a copyright of the same agreeable to the rules prescribed by law, before he shall be entitled to the benefit of the act, intituled "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the time therein mentioned," he shall, in addition to the requisites, enjoined in the third and fourth sections of said act, if a book or books, give information by causing the copy of the record, which, by said act he is required to publish in one or more of the newspapers, to be inserted at full length in the title-page or in the page immediately following the title of every such book or books; and if a map or chart, shall cause the following words to be impressed on the face thereof, viz: "Entered according to act of Congress, the _________________ day of _________________ 18 _________________ (here insert the date when the same was deposited in the office) by A. B. of the State of _________________ (here insert the author's or proprietor's name and the State in which he resides)."

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That from and after the first day of January next, every person, being a citizen of the United States, or resident within the same, who shall invent and design, engrave, etch or work, or from his own works and inventions, shall cause to be designed and engraved, etched or worked, any historical or other print or prints, shall have the sole right and liberty of printing, re-printing, publishing and vending such print or prints, for the term of fourteen years from the recording the title thereof in the clerk's office, as prescribed by law for maps, charts, book or books: Provided, he shall perform all the requisites in relation to such print or prints, as are directed in relation to maps, charts, book or books, in the third and fourth sections of the act to which this is a supplement, and shall moreover cause the same entry to be truly engraved on such plate, with the name of the proprietor, and printed on every such print or prints as is herein before required to be made on maps or charts.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That if any print-seller or other person whatsoever, from and after the said first day of January next, within the time limited by this act, shall engrave, etch or work as aforesaid, or in any other manner copy or sell, or cause to be engraved, etched, copied or sold, in the whole or in part, by varying, adding to, or diminishing from the main design, or shall print, re-print, or import for sale, or cause to be printed, re-printed, or imported for sale, any such print or prints, or any parts thereof, without the consent of the proprietor or proprietors thereof, first had and obtained, in writing, signed by him or them respectively, in the presence of two or more credible witnesses; or knowing the same to be so printed or re-printed, without the consent of the proprietor or proprietors, shall publish, sell, or expose to sale or otherwise, or in any other manner dispose of any such print or prints, without such consent first had and obtained, as aforesaid, then such offender or offenders shall forfeit the plate or plates on which such print or prints are or shall be copied, and all and every sheet or sheets (being part of or whereon such print or prints are or shall be copied or printed) to the proprietor or proprietors of such original print or prints, who shall forthwith destroy the same; and further, that every such offender or offenders shall forfeit one dollar for every print which shall be found in his, her, or their custody; either printed, published, or exposed to sale, or otherwise disposed of, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, the one moiety thereof to any person who shall sue for the same, and the other moiety thereof to and for the use of the United States, to be recovered in any court having competent jurisdiction thereof.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That if any person or persons from and after the passing of this act, shall print or publish any map, chart, book or books, print or prints, who have not legally acquired the copyright of such map, chart, book or books, print or prints, and shall, contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, insert therein or impress thereon that the same has been entered according to act of Congress, or words purporting the same, or purporting that the copyright thereof has been acquired; every person so offending shall forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred dollars, one moiety thereof to the person who shall sue for the same, and the other moiety thereof to and for the use of the United States, to be recovered by action of debt in any court of record in the United States, having cognizance thereof. Provided always, That in every case for forfeitures hereinbefore given, the action be commenced within two years from the time the cause of action may have arisen.

We note the following regarding the above act, which amended the Copyright Act of 1790:

  1. This act added an additional requirement of having to affix a copyright notice to the work in question.
  2. Printed pictures are now copyrighted, but still only for U.S. citizens or residents, and only if the artist or engraver follows the stipulated procedures.
  3. No provision for an extension of copyright is given for pictures.
  4. The making of derivative works of copyrighted pictures without permission is prohibited. Such derivative works include works that reproduce the picture "in part," or "by varying, adding to, or diminishing from the main design."
  5. Making a derivative work of a book is apparently still permissible. Thus an author's use of some wording from another author was totally acceptable.
  6. The statute of limitations for copyright infringement was extended to two years.

The above page was found at https://www.TruthOrFables.net/copyright_law_us_1802.htm on July 21, 2024.

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