On March 1, 1989, the United States joined the Berne Convention, an international copyright convention. The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and its rules and regulation have been left mostly untouched by the Berne Implementation Act with regard to works created in the United States, for instance authors must still register their copyrights in the U.S. Copyright Office as a condition precedent to filing an infringement suit.

One change caused by Berne is the elimination of the requirement that copyright notice (i.e. copyright 1976 Prairie Press) be affixed to published copies of a work, although it is still advised. A lack of notice may allow an infringer to assert that the infringement was not intentional, thereby reducing the amount of damages to which the rightful copyright owner may be awarded in an infringement action. On the other hand, one can no longer assume that a work is in the public domain simply because it has been published without any copyright notice.

Another change is that copyright transfers no longer need to be recorded in the Copyright Office prior to the transferee filing suit for infringment. Other changes, both minor and major, are likely to surface as time goes on, but the foregoing are two of the most significant which may effect your rights immediately.

It is still a good idea to include your copyright notice on your works, as it informs others that you claim ownership. If someone was going to steal the artwork of another they might be encouraged to do it to someone who didn't seem to understand that they should claim ownership and left the notice off.

First Published Version, copyright 1990 David M. Spatt


THIS WEBSITE CANNOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR SOUND LEGAL ADVICE FROM A COMPETENT ARTS OR ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY. In the event of a legal problem or question, specific legal consultation is advised. This website is intended only as a means of educating arts organizations and artists of all disciplines as to their potential legal rights and liabilities. The information provided is made available with the understanding that neither OSLA nor the office of David M. Spatt is engaging in the rendering of legal counsel.

copyright 1997 David M. Spatt, All rights reserved

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