Brief History of U.S. Copyright Law

Throughout history, one important idea lawmakers have concerned themselves with is balancing the “public interest” with “individual “rights”. For example, the public’s right to access knowledge should not be limited by the individual author’s right to restrict access. With the application of copyright law, this delicate balance is achieved.
The founding fathers recognized that everyone would benefit by encouraging the creation and dissemination of creative and intellectual works into our culture and society. Thus, when the United States Constitution was written in 1787, the framers included an authoritative clause in the Constitution, sometimes known as the patent, trademark and copyright clause, enabling both the public and individuals to benefit from the creation and dissemination of creative works. U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 states in part,
“The Congress shall have Power To … 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 Discoveries;”
For a more complete explanation of the meaning and significance of this clause, click here and study this clause in context of Article 1 of the Constitution. What do you think is the significance of this clause in Article 1 being so near the beginning of the Constitution? click here for a more in-depth analysis of Clause 8.
Do not become over-burdened with the detail and depth of what you are reviewing. Simply understand and appreciate when and where copyright law comes from and the important priority the framers of the Constitution gave it.
The U.S. Copyright Law itself is a federal law and is codified in U.S. Code Title 17. Click here to browse through it.
Back / Next