Opening Statements

You Don’t Look a Day Over 299

Happy Birthday, Copyright!

Posted Apr 1, 2010 2:40 AM CDT
By Jill Schachner Chanen

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If it weren’t for the Statute of Anne, we might not have ever heard of the Berne Convention, Napster or Shepard Fairey. As the statute—considered to be the precursor to modern-day copyright law—turns 300 this month, we say “Happy birthday” with this quick look at the highs and lows of copyright throughout U.S. history.


1790

Congress passes the first Copyright Act.


Courtesy Library of Congress

1853

Harriet Beecher Stowe sues German publisher F.W. Thomas for translating Uncle Tom’s Cabin into German and selling it without permission.











Courtesy Playboy

1993

A federal court in Florida rules in Playboy Enterprises Inc. v. Frena that the magazine’s copyrights to its photographs were infringed when they were downloaded to an electronic bulletin board.






Courtesy Google

2005

Google sends the publishing world into a tizzy when it reveals its Library Project—an effort to digitize and index the collections of several research libraries, already under way. Despite numerous lawsuits from publishers claiming copyright infringement of their works, Google carries on.





Courtesy Grokster

2005

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that peer-to-peer file-sharing companies like Grokster can be found liable for copyright infringement.






BY THE NUMBERS

$35

Cost of registering a copyright online for a basic work of original authorship.

$50

Cost of registering a copyright using a printed form for a basic work of original authorship.

$150,000

Statutory damages available for willful copyright infringement.

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