The principle texts of the statutes on this web site for the 1976 Copyright Act and all later amendments, comes from (1) the 1976 Act as passed October 19, 1976 (Public Law 94-553), as published by the Federal Government in Statutes at Large (90 Stat. 2541), and (2) the year 2003 edition of the Act as uploaded to the web site of the Copyright Office.  All intermediary and subsequent editions of the Act on this site were assembled by the editor from the instructions in the various Public Laws which amend the principle Act.  (Samples of these amendment laws are reproduced below.)


The texts to the 1909 Act, 1947 Act, and the amendments to these Acts through 1962, were reproduced from a compilation prepared by the Copyright Office and previously published and sold by Government Printing Office.  Amendments passed from mid-1962 onward were copied from Statutes at Large.  Amendments to the 1976 Act through 1994 were also determined by the changes indicated in the Public Laws as reproduced in Statutes at Large.  From the 104th Congress (1995-1996) onward, the texts of Public Laws have been made available on the internet by the Government, so this was my source for the texts.  (The Government Printing Office Access site for these texts is for the 104th Congress; substitute “105” or a higher number to get the bills for a later Congress.  The Library of Congress web site also offers these texts.  Visit them at, once again substituting the number of a later Congress if desired, although here you must do so in two locations within the URL.)


The ranges of dates which the user can choose on the drop-down menu reflect the dates that particular versions of the law were in effect.  These dates aren’t always the dates on which changes were passed into law.  (For example, the aforementioned Public Law 94-553, passed October 19, 1976, did not take effect until January 1, 1978.)  In some instances, a law contained portions which went into effect immediately whereas other portions were held in abeyance until a later date.  Where that was the case, this web site contains both sets of effective dates, and users who select the set of dates between Effective Date No. 1 and Effective Date No. 2 will see the text as changed on the earlier date but not the text that did not go into effect until a date beyond the user-selected date.  (Hey, if you want to see the text as changed, you need to select a set of dates within or after the date that the changes took effect.)


A special problem arose where a law changed the text of a passage of the law effective a particular date, and thereafter yet another law (a later law) changed the same passage but did so retroactive to a date as early or even earlier than the date of the law passed earlier.  This didn’t happen often.  Nonetheless, where it did, I had to select the retroactive law in place of showing both, as the retroactive law is the final choice of Congress as to what is to be read as the law during the given time period.  In the paragraphs below, I documents the problems which arose.


Other than instances where retroactive law introduced a conflict with two texts both having claim to effect during a particular time period, this web site reproduces all versions of each section of the law.  (One other exception, which is limited to section 119, is explained later on this page.)  Some passages were changed numerous times, yet the visitor to this web site who checks each applicable set of dates will see each version.


Retroactive Changes


Below is the relevant text from a law which changed section 101 of the Copyright Act:


PUBLIC LAW 106-113—Nov. 29, 1999


(d) Work Made for Hire.—Section 101 of title 17, United States Code, is amended in the definition relating to work for hire in paragraph (2) by inserting “as a sound recording,” after “audiovisual work”.


The above was effective November 29, 1999.  The next passage is from a law passed the following year.  It changed the same portion of section 101 as was changed in the previous year’s law:


PUBLIC LAW 106-379—October 27, 2000


(a) Definition.—The definition of “work made for hire” contained in section 101 of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(1) in paragraph (2), by striking “as a sound recording,”; and

(2) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following:

“In determining whether any work is eligible to be considered a work made for hire under paragraph (2), neither the amendment contained in section 1011(d) of the Intellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act of 1999, as enacted by section 1000(a)(9) of Public Law 106-113, nor the deletion of the words added by that amendment—

“(A) shall be considered or otherwise given any legal significance, or

“(B) shall be interpreted to indicate congressional approval or disapproval of, or acquiescence in, any judicial determination,

by the courts or the Copyright Office. Paragraph (2) shall be interpreted as if both section 2(a)(1) of the Work Made For Hire and Copyright Corrections Act of 2000 and section 1011(d) of the Intellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act of 1999, as enacted by section 1000(a)(9) of Public Law 106-113, were never enacted, and without regard to any inaction or awareness by the Congress at any time of any judicial determinations.”.


(b) Effective Date.—

(1) Effective date.—The amendments made by this section shall be effective as of November 29, 1999.


Although the above was approved by Congress October 27, 2000, it was retroactive to November 29, 1999.  As a consequence, the “first” November 29, 1999, passage was never in effect, by the interpretation of the law applied here.


Erroneously-Worded Changes


The first of the next two excerpts indicates changes that were intended for section 119(c).  The second of the two excerpts addresses the changes determined in the first excerpt.


PUBLIC LAW 108-419—Nov. 30, 2004


(h) Ratemaking for Satellite Carriers.—Section 119(c) of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(1) in paragraph (2)—

(A) in subparagraph (B), by striking “Librarian of Congress” and inserting “Copyright Royalty Judges”; and

(B) in subparagraph (C), by striking “Register of Copyrights shall prescribe” and inserting “Copyright Royalty Judges shall prescribe as provided in section 803(b)(6); and

(2) in paragraph (3)—

(A) in subparagraph (A)—

(i) by striking “arbitration proceedings” and inserting “proceedings”; and

(ii) by striking “arbitration proceeding” and inserting “proceedings”;

(B) in subparagraph (B)—

(i) by striking “copyright arbitration royalty panel appointed under chapter 8” and inserting “Copyright Royalty Judges”; and

(ii) by striking “panel shall base its decision” and inserting “Copyright Royalty Judges shall base their determination”; and

(C) in subparagraph (C)—

(i) in the heading, by striking “decision of arbitration panel or order of librarian” and inserting “determination under chapter 8”; and

(ii) by striking clauses (i) and (ii) and inserting the following:

“(i) is made by the Copyright Royalty Judges pursuant to this paragraph and becomes final, or

“(ii) is made by the court on appeal under section 803(d)(3),”.


PUBLIC LAW 109-303—October 6, 2006

(g) Removal of Inconsistent Provisions.—The amendments contained in subsection (h) of section 5 of the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004 shall be deemed never to have been enacted.


A person who went through section 119(c) as it existed in November 2004 would not find the specific words which were implied to already be in that section.  (I know, I tried.)  The October 2006 passage makes authoritative that any attempt to read section 119(c) to contain certain content supposedly changed in 2004 should cease.   The changes could not be made, and were not made, admits this section of Public Law 109-303.



Here’s another instance where a later Public Law had to undo a problem created by a previous law (next three excerpts):


PUBLIC LAW 105-304—October 28, 1998   [112 Stat. 2860]


(a) In General.—Chapter 5 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding after section 511 the following new section:

“Sec. 512. Limitations on liability relating to material online



The above was passed and made effective October 28, 1998.  The following was passed the previous day:


PUBLIC LAW 105-298—October 27, 1998   [112 Stat. 2827]


(a) In General.—Chapter 5 of title 17, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

“Sec. 512. Determination of reasonable license fees for individual proprietors



Although passed the previous day, this passage did not go into effect until January 25, 1999.  In reading the wording within quotes, you’ll notice that the section number being added to Title 17 is the same although the titles are different.  Do you think that the Congress introduced a conflict into the law?


Congress decided that it had introduced a conflict, so the following change was made law six and a half months after the conflict came into effect:


PUBLIC LAW 106-44   [113 Stat. 221]


(c) Determination of Reasonable License Fees for Individual Proprietors.—Chapter 5 of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(1) by redesignating the section 512 entitled “Determination of reasonable license fees for individual proprietors” as section 513 and placing such section after the section 512 entitled “Limitations on liability relating to material online”;


The above was effective August 5, 1999.  What this means is that from January 25, 1999, to August 5, 1999, there were two sections 512.  On this web site, if you select to read Title 17 for these two sections, you will see both labeled section “512” although I have added an “editor’s note” (shown in red) explaining the problem.  I do not “correct” the law.  This site reproduces the law as passed by Congress.



Here we have another problem introduced by new legislation:


PUBLIC LAW 99-397—AUG. 27, 1986

SEC. 2.

(a) Section 111(d) of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(1) in paragraph (3) by striking out “clause (2)” and inserting in lieu thereof “paragraph (1)”;

(2) in paragraph (2) by striking out “clause (5)” and inserting in lieu thereof “paragraph (4)”;

(3) in paragraph (2)(B) by striking out “clause (5)” and inserting in lieu thereof “paragraph (4)”;

(4) by striking out paragraph (1); and

(5) by redesignating paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5) as paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4), respectively.

(b) Section 111(d) of title 17, United States Code, is amended by striking out “subsection (d)(2)” in the third undesignated paragraph defining a cable system and inserting in lieu thereof “subsection (d)(1)”.

and also:


PUBLIC LAW 101-318—JULY 3, 1990


(a) SECTION 111.—Section 111 of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(2) in subsection (d)—

(A) in paragraph (2) by striking out “paragraph (1)” and inserting in lieu thereof “clause (1)”;

(B) in paragraph (3) by striking out “clause (5)” and inserting in lieu thereof “clause (4)”; and

(C) in paragraph (3)(B) by striking out “clause (2)(A)” and inserting in lieu thereof “clause (1)(A)”.

(e) EFFECTIVE DATE.—(1) The amendments made by subsections (a) and (b) shall be effective as of August 27, 1986.


The underlined portions were underlined by me and do not reflect the formatting of the law as prepared by Congress.  The underlining is in place to emphasize where the problem appears.  These portions of this Public Law were effective August 27, 1986.   The portions above which are not underlined are changes that I made in the text of Title 17 for results where visitors select August 27, 1986, and later dates.   However, the underlined portions could not be changed.  The passages and/or exact words specified in Public Law 99-397 were not in the text of the previous version of Title 17.  I made exhaustive efforts to find any evidence of a change between Public Laws 94-553 (the October 19, 1976, full-text overhaul of the Copyright Act) and 99-397 (the one excerped immediately above).  Furthermore, I looked at this passage in the 2003 version of the Act offered by the Copyright Office and found no evidence of any change I could not account for.  I can offer an explanation.  I surmise that the underlined passages refer to explanatory text (text from a House Report) that appears beneath the statute in annotated editions of the United States Code.  (The annotated version of the United States Code, including the annotated version of Title 17, is available online at  Unfortunately, as formatted online, the supplementary material that appears beneath the texts of the various sections appears in the same size font as the actual statute in the web browser.  In the printed edition of the United States Code Annotated, the supplementary text appears in a smaller font.)


Other problems:


• Public Law 109-303 (dated October 6, 2006), Section 4 (labeled “Additional Technical Amendments”), (b)(3), states that section 114(f) of Title 17 is amended “in paragraph (2)(B), in the last sentence, by striking ‘negotiated under’ and inserting ‘described in’.”  I couldn’t find “negotiated under” but did find “negotiated in”.  I assumed an error in the text of the law (or the law as put online by GPO Access) of one vowel and made the change accordingly.


• And in another Public Law:


Public Law 109-303—October 6, 2006


(e) Satellite Carriers.—Section 119 of title 17, United States Code, is amended—

(2) in subsection (c)(1)(F)(i), in the last sentence, by striking “arbitrary” and inserting “arbitration”.

(g) Removal of Inconsistent Provisions.—The amendments contained in subsection (h) of section 5 of the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act of 2004 shall be deemed never to have been enacted.


The change from “arbitrary” to “arbitration” had already been made, as far as I could tell.


• Likewise, Public Law 108-419 (dated November 30, 2004), section 5, (c)(2)(B)(iii), reporting how Section 114(f) of Title 17, subparagraph (B), states that it is to be changed in the last sentence by striking “negotiated as provided” and inserting “described in”.  My finding is that “negotiated as provided” was actually “negotiated under”.


• Public Law 100-667 (dated November 16, 1988), section 207 (title “Termination”), states, “This title and the amendments made by this title (other than the amendments made by section 205) cease to be effective on December 31, 1994.”  However, no subsequent legislation officiated such a change (as is usually the case), nor do I find evidence in later editions of the Title that these omissions were made, and — most significantly — the wording of a statute four years and 10 months after the supposed expiration is written in such a way as to presume that Title 17 still had the changes made November 16, 1988, so here I did not undo the 1988 changes.  Effective January 1, 1995, the text of the relevant passage was the same as it was December 30, 1994.


Inconsistencies introduced by changes in the 1925 codification of the 1909 Copyright Act as Title 17:


On December 7, 1925, the Copyright Act was codified as Title 17 of the United States Code.  The new edition of the law essentially followed the form of the previous, for the most part differing only by (a) the addition of a table of contents, (b) the addition of section titles, (c) the deletion of the word “That” at the beginning of each section, (d) the capitalization of what had previously been the second word of the section (which had now became first), (e) minor punctuation changes throughout, (f) the deletion of much of section 8, and (g) the substitution of the word “title” for “Act” where it refers to this specific law text.

Web visitors interested in the differences introduced by the 1925 codification can look at a chart detailing these differences on this web site.  To do so, return to, then select “See the Chart for 1909 to 1947”.

Section 8 had been lengthened by amendment in 1919, but the 1925 codification returns section 8 to the wording it had prior to 1919.  Although this might seem a mistake, the wording of the 1941 amendment makes clear that portions removed in 1925 were indeed thought in 1941 to have been removed.  The 1941 amendment gives instructions as to what was to be struck out from and added to section 8, and the new material has such similarity to the 1919-1925 portions that it is obvious that the passages new to 1941 could never co-exist at the same time with the 1919-1925 counterparts.  The Congress which passed the 1941 amendment obviously worked from a copy which presented the shortened 1925 version.

The same cannot be said for the Congress which passed Public Law 69-464, July 3, 1926 (44 Stat. 818).  Section 15, like many sections, had been changed with the 1925 codification to replace “Act” with “title”, remove “That” at the beginning of the section, and add a section title.  None of these are preserved by the 1926 statute, which presents the section in full as reworded.

The same can be said for Public Law 76-450, April 11, 1940 (54 Stat. 106), which retained the pre-1925 format in changes to section 33.  Furthermore, this was the case with Public Law 70-478, May 23, 1928 (45 Stat. 713), insofar as it amended sections 57 and 61.  In each case, the latter amendments drops the 1925 changes as to replacement of “Act” with “title”, removal of “That” at the beginning of the section, and addition of a section title.

In presenting the text of the law on the results pages for 1925 to 1947, I retained the change from “Act” to “title” where made in 1925, except that I change it back to “Act” where explicitly changed by amendments passed from 1926 to 1941.  However, I retain the section titles added in 1925 whenever the web visitor selects a text after the codification, even when a later amendment omits the section title in showing how a section was to be reworded.  I consider it important to provide headers to guide the reader in navigating the text than to omit the headers in conformance with petty negligence by the authors of the amendments.


Section 119


Until late 1988, there was no section 119 in the Copyright Act.  On November 16, 1988, that changed, with Public Law 100-667, the “Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1988.”  The text of early versions of this section are omitted from this web site (although a disclaimer appears in red where the missing text would have appeared).   There are several reasons for excluding this text:


• Satellite reception falls outside the scope of this web site, which is copyright registrations and renewals;


• The section changed frequently and is represented on this web site by the versions in place during 2003 and later;


• The statute of limitations has expired for any transgressions committed in violation of the early versions of this section, so persons who committed wrongs as defined by this section can no longer be prosecuted for those actions.


Some may argue that such persons could still be prosecuted if they were to offer for sale recordings of the programs that they received by satellite without authorization.   Such an argument misses the point about what would be prosecuted.  Yes, unlawful offering of copyrighted programs can be prosecuted, but this is not prosecution for satellite-law infringement.  Some who in 1989 illegally intercepted a satellite signal and who in the present year offers for sale a recording of the 1989 broadcast, can be sued in court for selling unauthorized copies of copyrighted programs, but the reception of the 1989 satellite signal occurred too long ago to be tried by the judiciary.   (The preceding is my layman’s understanding, and like all statements on this web site which come near to being legal advice, should be checked with an attorney before potentially-forbidden actions are taken.


The progression of Section 119 is that Public Law 100-667 was passed November 16, 1988, creating §119 effective January 1, 1989.  Public Law 103-198, in its Section 5 (title “Secondary Transmissions of Superstations and Network Stations for Private Home Viewing”), amended §119 effective December 17, 1993.  Public Law 103-369, titled the “Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1994,” was an overhaul and reauthorization of the previous act, effective upon its date of passage, October 18, 1994.


Public Law 104-39 (dated November 1, 1995) made amendments, albeit effective at the later date of February 1, 1996.  Public Law 105-80, Section 1, contains “Technical Corrections to The Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1994,” effective November 13, 1997.  Public Law 106-44 amended §119 with sections taking effect on both July 1, 1999 (the part concerning PBS) and November 29, 1999 (everything else).   Public Law 107-273, in its section 13210[!], made changes effective November 2, 2002.


Additional Topics


Where a Public Law specified that a change would occur as of another actions taking place — without the law stating the actual date when that contingent action would occur — I found out the answers on my own.  Public Law 105-304 (date October 28, 1998) states that applicable provisions would be effective upon entry into force of the WIPO Copyright Treaty with respet to the U.S.  I learned apart from copyright-law documentation that this was March 6, 2002.  The effective date was set accordingly.   More often than not, copyright-law documentation had the answer.  Circular 92 issued by the Copyright Office (June 2003 edition), for instance, gives the date that the Berne Convention entered into force in the United States, in an endnote to Appendix II.


Q: Why does the above mention that one of the two main sources of the text was the 2003 version offered in HTML format by the Copyright Office, when this was essentially unchanged from the years immediately prior?


A: The 2003 edition in HTML format was prepared by the Copyright Office, so it carries the imprimatur of the Government and the likelihood of having been thoroughly examined (at least so far as it contains the wording passed by Congress even if it repeats that body’s mistakes).  Had the 2003 (and later) editions on this web site not been taken from the Copyright Office version, any mistakes introduced by me into the text of earlier years would be promulgated into the present and near-present.   The reader is better served by the policy that I followed.

NOTE: In the excerpts above, ellipses are not used where missing numbers and letters in item sequences make it obvious that entire paragraphs have been omitted.  (What this means is that where there is an item “(B)” or “(5)” not preceded by item “(A)” or “(4),” the reader should recognize that irrelevant portions are missing without ellipses to mark where material was removed.)


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