Copyright, Its History And its Law/VIII

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VIII

Duration of Copyright: Term and Renewal

Historic
precedent
The duration of copyright was in the early printers' privileges for a short term, as for seven years, except in France, where copyrights were in perpetuity until the act of the National Assembly; in modem times the copyright term has been lengthened until a term extending through and beyond the life of the author has been adopted by thirty-seven countries, or more than half of tlaose which have copyright laws, of which four assure perpetual copyright. The Constitution imposes only one limitation on the comprehensive rights of authors, in the provision that protection shall be "for limited times" only. This provision has made the discussion of perpetual copyright purely academic in this country. The new American code adopts the double term of twenty-eight and twentyeight years, making fifty-six years in all, without reference to the life of the author.

Previous
American
practice
The American law previous to 1909 provided for a uniform term of twenty-eight years, dating from the time of recording the title, with a renewal of fourteen years, securable only by the author, or, if he be dead at the expiration of the term, by his widow or children. No other heirs or persons could renew. The new code differs in making the renewal period a second twenty-eight years and extending the right of renewal to the executors or next of kin and to the proprietors of composite or other impersonal works; but it still denies renewal to assignee proprietors of personal works. Term in
code of
1909
The American code of 1909 provides (sec. 23) "that the copyright secured by this Act shall endure for twenty-eight years from the date of first publication, whether the copyrighted work bears the author's true name or is published anonymously or under an assumed name," and makes provision also in the cases specified for renewal for a second period of twenty-eight years, provided that renewal application is registered in the Copyright Office "within one year prior to the expiration of the original term of copyright."

RenewalThe provisions as to renewal are in full as follows (sec. 23): "Provided, That in the case of any posthumous work or of any periodical, cyclopaedic, or other composite work upon which the copyright was originally secured by the proprietor thereof, or of any work copyrighted by a corporate body (otherwise than as assignee or licensee of the individual author) or by an employer for whom such work is made for hire, the proprietor of such copyright shall be entitled to a renewal and extension of the copyright in such work for the further term of twenty-eight years when application for such renewal and extension shall have been made to the copyright office and duly registered therein within one year prior to the expiration of the original term of copyright: And provided further, that in the case of any other copyrighted work, including a contribution by an individual author to a periodical or to a cyclopaedic or other composite work when such contribution has been separately registered, the author of such work, if still living, or the widow, widower or children of the author, if the author be not living, or if such author, widow, widower, or children be not living, then the author's executors, or in the absence of a will, his next of kin shall be entitled to a renewal and extension of the copyright in such work for a further term of twenty-eight years when application for such renewal and extension shall have been made to the copyright office and duly registered therein within one year prior to the expiration of the original term of copyright: And provided further, That in default of the registration of such application for renewal and extension, the copyright in any work shall determine at the expiration of twenty-eight years from first publication."

Extension of
subsisting
copyrights
The extension of copyrights subsisting July 1, 1909, is provided for as follows (sec. 24): "That the copyright subsisting in any work at the time when this act goes into effect may, at the expiration of the term provided for under existing law, be renewed and extended by the author of such work if still living, or the widow, widower, or children of the author, if the author be not living, or if such author, widow, widower, or children be not living, then by the author's executors, or in the absence of a will, his next of kin, for a further period such that the entire term shall be equal to that secured by this Act, including the renewal period: Provided, however, That if the work be a composite work upon which copyright was originally secured by the proprietor thereof, then such proprietor shall be entitled to the privilege of renewal and extension granted under this section: Provided, That application for such renewal and extension shall be made to the copyright office and duly registered therein within one year prior to the expiration of the existing term."

Assignee of
unpublished
manuscripts
In holding with the Attorney-General that an assignee cannot obtain renewal. Judge Brown in the U.S. Circuit Court in Rhode Island, in White Smith v. Goff, in 1910, raised but did not decide the "difficult" question whether, if an author sells his unpublished manuscript with right to publish and copyright, the new owner as the original copyright proprietor may claim renewal, or whether the author might reclaim the right.

Extension of
susbsisting
renewals
Under the provisions of the renewal clauses (sec. Extension of 24), not only may the original copyright term of a subsisting copyright be renewed for the longer term of twenty-eight years instead of fourteen years, but a subsisting copyright renewal may be extended from the added fourteen years to the full renewal term of twenty-eight years, and a separate application form for this latter class of cases is provided by the Copyright Office.

Publishers'
equities
In the copyright conferences, it was pointed out by publishers that the right of the author to renewal, and the implied denial of that right to an assignee proprietor, placed at serious disadvantage a publisher who had made investment in plates of an author's works, and would be deprived of the use of his investment at the end of the original term in case the author preferred to make arrangements with another publisher for the renewal term. The Congressional Committee failed, however, to provide a remedy for this through the proposed Monroe-Smith amendment, requiring that in such case author and publisher should unite in the application for renewal. No contract on the part of an author can give a publisher the right to claim copyright renewal under the new code, although a contract to make claim for the renewal period and transfer the copyright for the renewal period to the publisher, might be enforced by the courts through a writ requiring the author to enter such claim and assign the renewed copyright in accordance with the contract. When a copyrighted work is sold "outright," it therefore does not include renewal of the copyright, and unless the author registers his renewal claim, the right to renewal lapses.

Estoppel
of renewal
Where an author has sold "outright" all his right, title and interest in his work, it is possible that this may estop him from application for renewal or invalidate a renewal, but this question must be decided by the courts when a case arises. It is important that any contract between author and publisher should be clear and specific on this vexed question of rights for the renewal term. No provision is made for notification of renewal in the copyright notice, and therefore, after the expiration of the original term, information must be sought from the Copyright Office as to whether there has been renewal extension of the term. As it would be hazardous to omit the original copyright notice or to replace it by one giving the date of renewal, which might be construed to involve claim of a longer term and thus defeat itself, it may prove the wiser course to add to the official original notice, the unofficial notice "Copyright renewed, 19 ."

Life term
and beyond
The international copyright convention, as modified at the Berlin conference of 1908, adopted the term of life and fifty years, — previously in force in France and fourteen other countries, — subject to adoption by domestic legislation. A term of life and a specified number of years after the death of the author, preferably fifty years for personal works, and a term of fifty years for impersonal works, was advocated by the American Copyright leagues and other friends of copyright and was in the early drafts of the new copyright code.

It was pointed out that Emerson, Longfellow, Lowell, Whittier, Holmes and others outlived their earlier copyrights; that Edward Everett Hale, whose "Man without a country" did for this nation a patriotic service scarcely second to that of the great generals of the civil war, had no longer copyright in this work, although private soldiers, their relicts and decendants, were still paid pensions; and that many others of our foremost authors had been, or under the present system would be, deprived of their created property within their lifetime. The term advocated provides for the author and his children's children during the probable minority of the grandchildren, a period to which the entail of realty is limited by our laws. But the final decision of the Congressional Committees was for the simpler, though in other respects less satisfactory, period of twenty-eight years, as heretofore, with a renewal period of a second twenty-eight years, under the limitations above cited. No other countries, except Canada and Newfoundland, following our example, have this double or renewal term.

Unpublished
works
As a lecture or other work intended for oral delivery or a dramatic or musical work or a work of art, an unpublished dramatic or musical work or a work of art not reproduced in copies for sale is copyrightable without reference to date of publication, it is not altogether certain whether the term extends from the date of registration or the date of first delivery, performance or exhibition, or whether the statutory law now protects such a work under common law as unpublished, pending publication and therefore for an indefinite period if not practically in perpetuity. The Copyright Office issues a certificate for twenty-eight years, but without reference to initial date, which would be presumably the date of the certificate. The Copyright Office will doubtless, under this precedent, issue renewal pertificate for the second term of twenty-eight years.

Publication
as date of
copyright
As the new copyright code makes publication with notice the basis of copyright instead of entry and deposit, as formerly, the term of copyright now dates from publication, and "the date of publication" is specifically defined (sec. 62) as "the earliest date when copies of the first authorized edition were placed on sale, sold, or publicly distributed by the proprietor of the copyright or under his authority." Such date is included in the application for registry at the Copyright Office, and on the same day twenty-eight years or fifty-six years thereafter the copyright ends. A provision for terminating copyrights at the end of the calendar year of expiration was included in the early drafts of the code, but was not included in the law as enacted.

Serial
publication
In the case of works published and copyrighted as serials, as a novel published in parts in a monthly magazine, the copyright runs technically from the first publication of each part; and at the end of the twenty-eight or fifty-six years, each part could be successively published at monthly intervals free from copyright. Practically, however, such a copyrighted serial could not be published complete until twenty-eight or fifty-six years from the publication of the last part. In usual practice a novel is printed in book form a month or two before its completion as a serial in a magazine, and the date of the copyright on the completed work would then terminate at the end of the twenty-eight or fifty-six years from publica- tion in book form.

Joint
authorship
The use of the date of publication as the beginning of the copyright term and the specification of twenty- eight years and twenty-eight years for its duration, obviates questions as to anonymous and pseudonymous works, composite works or works of joint au- thorship. The earlier drafts of the bill, providing for a term through and beyond life, made the lifetime of the last surviving author the basis for the term of copyright on works of joint authorship. This method was interestingly applied in the German courts, when it was held as to the opera "Carmen" that Bizet's music was out of copyright, but that the libretto was protected because one of its three joint authors was still living.

Termination
by forfeiture
or laches
A copyright is terminated ipse facto by forfeiture as provided in the act, either because of failure to deposit copies after notice from the Copyright Office (sec. 13), or because of false affidavit of American manufacture (sec. 17). It may also be terminated by laches, that is, carelessness in protecting one's rights, as by omission of the notice, unless by accident or mistake, from particular copies (sec. 20).

Abandon-
ment
A copyright may be terminated by voluntaryabandonment or purposed dedication as well as by expiration, forfeiture or laches. Thus in 1854 Congress purchased for $10,000 the copyright of Sumner's new method of ascertaining a ship's position, dedicated the method to general public use, and extinguished the copyright. The Copyright Office has no authority to recognize annulments, but it has noted request for annulment when received on the registry. In 1910 the Oxford University Press, American Branch, formally notified the Treasury Department that they abandoned the copyright on Oxford Cyclopaedic Concordance copyrighted by them in 1903, and collectors of customs were accordingly authorized by circular letter of January 25, 1910, to permit importation "of any copies of the said work with the notice of the copyright obliterated, or a notice of the abandonment of the copyright plainly printed upon the same page with the notice of copyright and adjacent thereto." This last was a curious "boomerang" effect of the manufacturing clause as extended to binding in the act of 1909.

In EnglandIn England the term of book copyright has been thelife of the author and seven years after his death, or forty-two years from first publication, whichever the longer. The copyright in other articles has varied according to specific laws. The Copyright Commission of 1876 proposed, for all copyright articles as well as books, a term of life and thirty years after the author's death, according to the German precedent, or in case of anonymous and posthumous books and encyclopaedias, thirty years from the date of deposit in the British Museum, an anonymous author to have the right during the thirty years to obtain the full term by publishing an edition with his name. The English law contained a specific provision that in the case of articles in periodicals (but not in an encyclopaedia) the right to publish in separate form should revert to an author after twenty-eight years; the Commission proposed a term of three years, during which time also the author as well as the general owner may bring suit against piracy. The English committee appointed to make recommendations in respect to the adoption of the Berlin provisions of 1908 through domestic legislation, however, reported strongly in favor of a general term of life and fifty years; and this term has been adopted in the new code.

The new
British code
This general term of "the life of the author and a code period of fifty years after his death" holds "unless previously determined by first publication elsewhere." In joint authorship, copyright shall subsist during the life of the author who first dies and fifty years after or during the life of the author who dies last, whichever the longer. In posthumous works, copyright subsists for fifty years from first publication or performance, whichever the earlier. Anonymous and pseudonymous, and corporate works are not named in the act, and the term is presumably fifty years, unless in the former cases identity is disclosed. For photographs and mechanical music reproductions as such, the term is fifty years from the making of the original negative or the original plate. Existing copyrights are extended through the new period; but for the extended term the rights revert to the author, though an assignee may require continuance of the assignment or continue to publish on royalties, as determined by agreement or arbitration. Assignments, except for parts of collective works, terminate in twenty-five years, when rights revert to the heirs.

Perpetual
copyright
The Crown has held an exclusive and perpetual right to license the printing of the Bible, Book of Common Prayer, ordnance surveys, and possibly the Acts of Parliament; and specified universities and colleges were assured perpetual copyright in works given or bequeathed to them unless given for a limited term, but the right lapsed into the usual copyright term unless the work were printed on their own presses and for their own benefit. Under the new code, "without prejudice to any rights or privileges of the Crown," any work prepared or published for His Majesty or any Government department has copyright for fifty years from first publication — the effect of which provision on Crown perpetual copyrights is not clearly evident. A saving clause protects the universities "in any right they already possess," inferentially limiting their future copyrights to the statutory term. After the death of the author of a literary, dramatic or musical work, on complaint of the withholding of the work from publication or performance, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council may require the owner to grant a license to reproduce or perform the work in public under conditions determined by" the Committee. After twenty-five years, or in the case of existing copyrights thirty years from the author's death, the work may be reproduced by any person on prescribed notice in writing of his intention and payment of ten per cent on the published price in accordance with regulations by the Board of Trade.

Other coun-
tries
Perpetual copyright is granted by the laws of other countries, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela, while in Montenegro, Egypt, Liberia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Uruguay, which give copyright protection without specific legislation under a crude civil or common law enforced by the courts, the term is indefinite. A copyright term extending eighty years beyond the death of the author is granted by Spain, Cuba, Colombia and Panama. The French precedent of fifty years after the author's death was followed by Belgium, Russia and the Scandinavian countries, Hungary, Portugal and some others, and was adopted by the Berlin convention Interna-
nional
standard
term
as the international standard term; the German precedent of thirty years beyond death was followed by Austria, Switzerland and Japan, while the British precedent of seven years beyond death or fortytwo years from publication, whichever the longer, was followed in many of the English colonies and in Siam. Italy has a curious term of life or at least forty years after publication, with a second period of forty years during which, though the exclusive rights lapse, the author enjoys a royalty of five per cent on publication price. Haiti has the curious term of the life of the author and twenty additional years for widow or children, or ten years for other heirs. In Holland fifty years or life, in Brazil fifty years from the preceding January ist, and in Greece fifteen years are specified.

Special
categories
In many countries there are special terms for special categories of works, as for anonymous, pseudonymous, and corporate works, translations, photographs and telegraphic dispatches — the latter for a stated number of hours.