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Copyright Law Undergoes Major Face-lift

Donald S. Dobkin, LLM
JAMA. 1979;241(10):1019-1020. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290360035024.
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ON JAN 1,1978, the first major statutory revision of US copyright law in almost 70 years became effective. The new law, embodying the efforts of many years of compromise between the interests of publishers and authors, contains wide-sweeping changes.

While the enactment of the new law has thrust copyright into greater public focus of late, copyright law in this country is not a recent phenomenon. The earliest origins of copyright in the United States stem from a 1710 English statute known as the Statute of Anne. Following the American Revolution, most of the states enacted copyright laws generally patterned after the English act.

The need for federal legislation, however, was soon recognized, and when the US Constitution was drafted, copyright was included. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution granted Congress the power "to promote the progress of science and useful acts by securing for limited times to authors and


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