Pursuing a Better Harmonization of Copyright Law and Communications Law
Until 1976, the worlds of American copyright and communications law operated largely in parallel universes. Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is vested with the power “[t]o 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.” This authority was first used in the enactment of the Copyright Act of 1790, with modern copyright law first reflected in the Copyright Act of 1909. That Act covered all published works exclusively under federal law, provided a copyright notice was affixed. In contrast, communications law has no specific constitutional mandate, with federal legislation first enacted in the early part of the 20th century. This was accomplished through the enactment of the Radio Act of 1927, followed by its successor, the Communications Act of 1934, which also included television broadcasting in its scope.