The International Copyright Act of 1891 was
the first act that offered copyright protection in the United States to
citizens of countries other than the United States. It was important for
American creators too because they were more likely to have international
copyright protection in countries that were offered the same protection by the United
States. Included in the Act was the price of fees that must be paid to
the Library of Congress to register works and receive a copyright seal,
instructions for submitting items to the Library of Congress, instructions and
deadlines that must be met to successfully receive international copyright
protection and penalties for copyright infringement among some other details
included in the Act.
Popular authors such as Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott were fed
up with not having any international copyright protection for their work. The Act
allowed citizens of foreign nations to mail in their work before it was
published. This way the Library of Congress could grant them copyright
protection in the United States. Countries that agreed with American policy
could choose to enter into an agreement to offer American creators the same
protection in their country. Before the Copyright Act was passed in 1891, a
collaborator from another country had to be included in a work in order to
receive copyright protection in that country.
Content of the Act
The content of the Act includes:
Fees to be paid by both national and international creators.
Duration of copyrights including after the death of a
Rules, instructions and guidelines for national and
Protection of copyrighted material.
Penalties for breaking the laws set forth by the Copyright Act.
Relationships between countries regarding copyright
The work submitted to the Library of Congress
had to be completed on American material such as American plates or stones. The work had to be submitted no later than the day of
publication either in the foreign country or the United States. The creator’s home country had to be willing to offer similar
copyright protection to American copyright holders that citizens of that
country were entitled to or the same protection offered
by the United States to foreigners.
If a United States president proclaimed he wanted the United States to extend
protection to a certain country, international copyright protection would be
granted. Presidents also had the right to remove copyright protection from