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
the 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.