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Perhaps one of the most famous statements about intellectual property comes from Thomas Jefferson’s 1813 letter to Isaac McPherson, â€œIt has been pretended by some that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs.â€
â€œSociety may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility,â€ Jefferson wrote. â€œBut this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from any body.â€
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution insists that Congress be given a special right: â€œTo promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveriesâ€
The Library of Congress was designated as the body that would house copyrighted works, maintain a registry and publish circulars concerning the rules and regulations (U.S. Copyright Act, Title 17). In the case of inventions, the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) oversees patent law (Title 35) and trademark law (Title 15, Section 22).
September 9, 1886, International Copyright Act to provide reciprocal protection for British and U.S. authors. At least 150 countries have since become members of the Berne Convention, which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations body based in Geneva, Switzerland. The U.S. stalled to adopt the worldâ€™s copyright standard until 1996.
Copyright Act of 1976: Principally undertaken to address the new technologies of photocopying and video recording as well as to bring U.S. law into accord with international law. This revision also codified for the first time the fair use and first sale doctrines, and added Section 108 that allows library photocopying without permission for purposes of scholarship, preservation and interlibrary loan.
On October 12, 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), ending many months of turbulent negotiations regarding its provisions. Two weeks later, on October 28, President Clinton signed the Act into law. Sections 1201 and 104 of the DMCA mandated constant reviews of the law’s performance.
Rep. Sonny Bonoâ€™s Copyright Term Extension Act (S 505), signed into law on October 27, 1998, amended the copyright laws by extending the duration of copyright protection in general, for an additional 20 years.