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Copyright Center

Spring 2024 Feature

The World’s First Copyright Act (in the Modern Sense)




The original purpose of copyright in Victorian England was not to protect authors’ (or even publishers’) rights, but to raise revenue for the government, as well as giving them the primary power over the ability to censor literary works. Many of these restrictions were authorized by the Licensing of the Press Act in 1662, and were enforced by the Stationers’ Company, a guild of printers that was regulated by the Court of Star Chamber, that held the exclusive power to print. These stifling modes of censorship (and press restrictions) did not sit well with authors and the public alike. As such, these regulations led to widespread protests that eventually ended the reign of the censors.

The Statue of Anne, named for the reigning Queen Anne, which was passed on April 5, 1710, was a milestone in copyright law. The bill was the first of its kind, as it advocated for the protection of an author’s intellectual property by emphasizing that the author – or creator – should be the primary beneficiary of copyright law, rather than the publishers. The new bill granted a prescribed copyright term of 14 years from the inception of the law, and 21 year to any published work, that was already in print. A provision for renewal was included in its terms, during which only the author and the printer, to whom their work was licensed, held exclusive rights to publication. Should the copyright be left to expire, the work in question would then fall into the public domain.

Though the Statue of Anne would later be replaced by the Copyright Act of 1842, the law would forever more be considered a “watershed event in Anglo-American copyright history.” Within the written provisions of this statue, included a myriad of first such as copyright protections that favored authors over publishers or guilds and the legal deposit schema (and precursor, one could say, to the modern day institutional repository). This statue, also, had an influence on copyright laws that were enacted in other countries – Denmark in 1741, the United States in 1790 (and later the Chase Act nearly a hundred years later in 1891), and France in 1793 (a tous la liberté!).


References: Nineteenth-Century British and American Copyright Law by Philip V. Allingham

February 2024 Feature

Public Domain Day 2024



By Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain

CC BY 4.0
Note: Please note that this site is only about US law; the copyright terms in other countries may be different.


On January 1, 2024, thousands of copyrighted works from 1928 will enter the US public domain, along with sound recordings from 1923. They will be free for all to copy, share, and build upon. This year’s highlights include Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman and Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, and a trove of sound recordings from 1923. And, of course, 2024 marks the long-awaited arrival of Steamboat Willie – featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse – into the public domain. 

Here is just a handful of the works that will be in the US public domain in 2024. They were first set to go into the public domain after a 56-year term in 1984, but a term extension pushed that date to 2004. They were then supposed to go into the public domain in 2004, after being copyrighted for 75 years. But before this could happen, Congress hit another 20-year pause button and extended their copyright term to 95 years. Now the wait is over. (To find more material from 1928, you can visit the Catalogue of Copyright Entries.)


Click the PDF Link below for full article. 


Written by Jennifer Jenkins. Public Domain Day 2024 by Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Note on Changes: Excerpt taken from Public Domain Day 2014 by Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Certain segments, in particular “Why Celebrate the Public Domain?” have been reordered. Original footnotes have been removed.

This website is not official legal advice. Instead, it is a summary of United States law relevant to the public domain and a guide to some of the works entering the public domain in 2024.

Janurary 2024 Feature

So You Want to Create a Cover Song?

By Sierra Whitfield



So, you want to create a cover song?


Or, you already have created it, and are looking to release your newest creation out into the world?

Either way, there are some things that you’ll have to take into consideration, and that “thing” is copyright. I know, copyright may seem like it has little to do with music, or the arts in general, but these protections are far more relevant than you might think. It is important to adhere to copyright laws, for not only the artist’s benefit, but also your own. Copyright is all about protecting the value of a creator’s work, by giving the originator of the work the ability to protect it from unlicensed or uncredited usage. This leads to the prevention of their work being copied to the degree where they cannot sell it effectively or receive credit for it.  In this way, copyright fosters intellectual creativity as it provides an incentive for a creator to work freely, allowing them to gain recognition for their work as well as protecting their livelihood. 

So, an artist holds the rights to his work, to print, publish, reproduce, film etc. this material over a period of years, though they may give this right to others at their discretion or by allowing others to reuse it when other people ask for the owner’s permission. This process of getting consent from a copyright holder to use their creative work is called obtaining copyright permissions. Obtaining permission is often called “licensing”; when you have permission, you have a license to use the work.

And this is how, legally, music covers can exist!

The thought of licensing music may seem like a doozy, especially to someone who’s not used to the copyright permissions process, but once you understand the in’s-and-out’s of the different types of music licenses, you’ll be able to navigate licensing with little challenge.


Types of Music Licenses


Public Performance License: this license is self-explanatory. As one of the most common types of music license issues, the public performance license covers any broadcast of any artist’s work; scenarios include radio broadcasts, background music in public spaces (malls, restaurants, waiting rooms), or live covers in front of an audience.

Print Rights License: this license refers to the musical composition that the artist has written.

Master Recording License: the master right is held by the person or entity who owns the recording of the song. The master license gives the user permission to use the original recording of the song for an audiovisual project, but does not allow the user to use a re-recorded version of the song (i.e. a cover).

Mechanical License: this license covers any physical or digital reproduction of an artist’s work. Though original catered toward physical reproductions such as CD’s, cassettes, and vinyl’s, the existence of the internet and download focus stores like iTunes and Amazon Music has broadened this umbrella to include digital reproductions as well.

Synchronization (Sync) License: this license is necessary when you want “synchronize” music with an audiovisual project such as a YouTube video, music video, commercial, film, and television shows.


So, how do you go about getting licensing for releasing a cover song?


The first question you need to ask yourself is: where do you plan to post it?


Physical/Digital Downloads

If you plan on releasing a cover song on either a physical and/or digital records, then you will need to obtain a mechanical license. This ensures that both the copyright holder is paid and you aren’t sued!


Streaming Platforms

You can upload your cover song directly to streaming platforms utilizing the exact copyright information provided by the original songwriters and publishers. Services like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music license songs and pay royalties to copyright holders through THE MLC (Mechanical Licensing Collective). Cover artists releasing songs through these platforms do not need to worry about royalty payments.


Playing a Cover on YouTube

You may get away with not acquiring a license to a song posted on YouTube, but if you want to make money off your video, then you need to acquire a sync license. Elsewise, you will put yourself, and your video, at risk of getting a copyright strike. In addition, if you plan to release the song on digital, then the above rules and licenses will also apply.   



Now, you are equipped with everything you need to know about cover music licensing. Go forth and release your song onto the platform of your choice!




Institute of Art, Design + Technology Dun Laoghaire, Copyright: Why copyright matters and important concepts related to copyright; Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-BY_NC 4.0)

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