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Copyright Act of 1976

Be Aware of the Societal Implications of the 1976 Copyright Act

Be Aware of the Societal Implications of the 1976 Copyright Act


The societal implications stemming from the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 into law extend to the terms and period of time under which creators and other copyright holders may profit from their copyright holdings, the privileges given to other individuals or groups involved in distributing the creations of other people, and the ability of the public to gain limited use to the creations of other people without requiring their full permission or incurring the possibility of legal action. If you need legal advice and assistance, contact copyright lawyers.

The law was intended to bring Federal statutes up to date in a more technologically sophisticated world than the one which, in 1909, had seen the last Federal overhaul of copyright law. Under this change in copyright law, works existing in a wide variety of media could be subject to the protection of copyright law. 

The societal implications for the Copyright Act of 1976 in this way proceeded from the new language of a "tangible medium of expression" and "original works of authorship" being acceptable subjects for protection under Federal copyright law.

The societal implications for the Copyright Act of 1976 created attention among professionals involved in the field, though not substantially from major media outlets. The Library of Congress's Register of Copyrights, Barbara Ringer, spoke of the newly revised copyright law as being both "a balanced compromise" and an Act that consistently came down on "the authors' and creators' side." 

In making this and similar assertions, copyright law observers pointed to the newly lengthened periods for copyright law protection to be granted to rights holders under the Copyright Act of 1976, which would comprise the entire period of an author's life and include another fifty years. The fees which the heirs of late authors, such as widows, would be liable to receive were guaranteed under the Copyright Act of 1976 to continue for periods of nineteen years.

A contentious area in the societal implications of the Copyright Act of 1976 has been raised in regards to the provisions made for granting copyrights to persons other than those originally responsible for creating or commissioning them. An area of industry concerned with copyright law which has the potential to be heavily affected by it is the music industry, which is largely dependent on the licensing of copyrights from the original authors.

Under the Copyright Act of 1976, the agreements under which copyrights were sold before 1978, when the copyright law went into effect, could be "terminated" by the original creator after a period of fifty-six years. Those sold in or after 1978 are addressed by Section 203 of the Copyright Act of 1976, which allows a period of thirty-five years from the execution of the grant before it is terminated.

The fair use doctrine addressed by the Copyright Act of 1976 also had substantial societal implications for the world of copyright law. Musical recordings made using limited samples of sound from other copyrighted works could thus be permissibly made if within reasonable means. Other areas affected by this copyright law include journalism and academia. 

Your Guide to the Significant Sections of the Copyright Act of 1976

Your Guide to the Significant Sections of the Copyright Act of 1976

In the
Copyright Act of 1976, sections can be found which substantially altered the
practices in American copyright law which had been common up until that point.
The first provision considered one of the most significant sections is Section
102, which set out new language intended to replace the archaic language used
in the previous Federal Bill passed in 1909. It also provided the protection of
copyright law to the creators of any “original works of authorship.”

In regard to
the more advanced methods and capacities for disseminating artistic works that
existed in 1976 in comparison to 1909, the language in this section clarified
that any “tangible medium of expression” could be used as a means for
containing a work. These might include works in the musical, literary,
choreographic, visual, dramatic, cinematic, and aural realms. 

clarification contained in this section of the Copyright Act of 1976 was
expressed through the use of the term “fixed” to define how a work of
authorship behaved in its medium, rather than the previously used term
“published,” which allowed certain unregistered works to fall into
the public domain.

The significant sections of the Copyright Act of
1976 governing the rights of creators also include Sections 106, 302, and 408.
The first attempt to clarify the rights of a copyright holder in relation to
how he or she could alone make use of a copyright were addressed here. 

functions permissible under copyright law are considered to fall into five
categories, comprising of exclusive privileges toward a work of reproduction,
display, public performance, selling (or other commercial exchanges), and the
production of “derivative” versions.

Section 302
also gained favorable professional and media attention at the time following
the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 for following up on the suggestions
made by Mark Twain almost a century earlier and hewing more closely to standard
copyright practice of specifying that protection of a work under copyright law
should last for the duration of the creator’s life, plus an additional fifty

Among these
significant sections, Section 408 specified that registration of a work under
copyright law, as provided through the Copyright Office of the Library of
Congress, would not be required for copyrights to apply. Instead, copyright law
would be geared toward helping authors defend their rights against infringement
in courts of law by providing registration as a means for legal verification
admissible in court.

Significant sections of the Copyright Act of 1976
also pertain to the relations between the author and other individuals hoping
to help disseminate the work more widely. Section 204 eliminated inconsistency
in earlier effective means for a copyright holder to transfer rights to another

The last of
the significant sections considered to exist in the Copyright Act of 1976 deals
with the traditional focus in American copyright law on promoting the
production and distribution of new creative works for the benefit as a whole.
Section 107 therefore addressed the ways in which the doctrine of fair use
could be applied to the limited and permissible use of copyrighted material.

Copyright Act of 1976 Quick Overview

Copyright Act of 1976 Quick Overview

The background to the issues eventually
addressed in the Copyright Act of 1976 can be traced back to the decision made
in the late 19th
Century by the United
States not to submit to the copyright law standards established by the
 Berne Convention for the Protection of
Literary and Artistic Works, which was widely agreed to by various European
nations in 1886. United States copyright law as practiced at the time would
have been subject to various revisions upon acceptance of the Berne Convention
and the country decided it was unwilling to let go of such practices.

After being relegated to the background
for some time, the issues raised by the practice of copyright law on a national
and international basis became newly relevant with the creation of the United
Nations in the wake of the Second World War. In addition to the United States’
background of objecting to the Berne Convention on account of some specific
measures, new issues were raised by the Soviet bloc based
on Marxist ideology and by areas of the world such as Latin America which
regarded copyright law as a useful tool only for stronger nations. In order to
provide another avenue for international cooperation on copyright law, the
United Nations created the Universal Copyright Convention in 1952.

The background of the Universal Copyright Convention largely consists of
the American need for a new copyright law standard. Despite this fact the
United States waited for three years to join the Convention. The process of
altering American copyright law to fit the new requirements proved difficult to
enact through Congress.

In 1961 Congress received a
comprehensive study on the requirements of copyright law, upon which an initial
version of copyright legislation was based in 1964. Until the passage of the
Copyright Act of 1976, legislators proposed numerous changes to the language of
Bill. The eventual version of the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed with
little opposition from either the Senate or the House, and was signed
into law on October 19 by President Ford.