Week 16 – Final Project

December 14th, 2011

I chose to write a paper that would expand upon the timeline enrty entitled, “Copyright Acts in USA,” regarding the 1909 Copyright Act. Initially, I chose this topic because because I knew that library would have plenty of sources on American copyright, and so the research would not be all that hard. While finding sources was easy, I realized that the amount of information was more than I had anticipated. The 1909 Act had so many implications that keeping the paper between 2-3 pages was actually fairly difficult. What I found to be most fascinating about the Act was that it was the result of increasingly frequent legal disputes with music composers and publishers against recording manufacturers. When I think about disputes over music copyright, player pianos don’t strike me as the serious offenders. However, it was not hard to imagine that they would be one of the main concerns for the music industry during a time when commercial recording technology was so limited.

Final Assignment

December 13th, 2011

The Legacy of the 1909 Copyright Act

The utilization of copyright acts in the United States has been required to shift in order to meet the needs of emerging technological advancement. Beginning with the first of such acts in 1790, United States copyright laws have been periodically updated to adjust with the demands of copyright holders. However, the Copyright Act of 1909 was distinct, not only due to its longevity, but also because of its effects on the music industry. Despite its later problems, the 1909 Copyright Act would ultimately lead to the modern understanding of copyright in the United States.

The effort to reform copyright law in the early twentieth century was largely the result of the technological advancements that affected the music industry. The invention of player pianos (pianolas) led to a demand from music publishers for stronger copyright protection, while the Aeolian Company, a pianola manufacturer, was steadily building a monopoly on mechanical recording rights from numerous publishers.[1] The legal disputes between composers, publishers, and mechanical recording companies led to the 1909 Copyright Act. According to Stanford University Law Professor Paul Goldstein, “Congress brought phonograph records as well as pianola rolls within the new law, and also took account of the feared Aeolian monopoly by subjecting the right to a compulsory license.”[2] The ramifications of the compulsory licenses could not be overstated. New York Law School Professor Edward Samuels explained this by simply stating that the Copyright Act, “provided that, once a music copyright owner made a recording of the work, anyone else could market and distribute recordings of the same work for a set fee.”[3] The compromise had been set: with composers and publishers being compensated for their music, and recording manufacturers no longer threatened by monopolies on distribution rights, the Copyright Act had seemingly met its goal.

The drawback to this revitalized emphasis on music copyright was that it created a larger population of potential copyright infringers. Goldstein was able to outline the two-fold problem that arose from creating copyright violators:

“First, the 1909 Act provided that for an unauthorized performance to infringe copyright it had to be not only public but also ‘for profit.’ Concerts were admission was charged were an easy case. But was background music in a restaurant played ‘for profit’? Second, unlicensed performances went on in cabarets, dance halls, and restaurants in virtually every city… To police each infringing performance and file lawsuits against them would likely cost more than any damages that might be recovered.”[4]

While the 1909 Copyright Act was intended to mediate between publishers and recording manufacturers, it had done so at the expense of many of their customers. Legal action against them was not practical; a trend that would only grow as technology made the possibilities for information distribution even greater. By 1972, one scholar wrote that 1909 Copyright Act needed to be recalled, in part, because it was no conducive to, “the prospective development of computer-based systems in which entire libraries of copyrighted works will be stored and made available for reproduction and transmission on demand.”[5] Clearly, the implications of the Copyright Act had forced people to seriously consider what qualified as infringement; a consideration that persisted long after the Act had been repealed.

Another significant aspect of the 1909 Copyright Act was that it prolonged the use of renewals in American copyright. Under the Act, copyright was extended to twenty-eight years following publication, with the renewal period expanded from fourteen to twenty-eight years.[6] In a sense, this made the United States copyright law distinct on the international level. Samuels wrote that, “even by 1909, most of the rest of the world had expanded their protection to the life of the author plus 50 years, and that term was seriously considered in the Congressional debates. But Congress, in its wisdom, chose to retain the renewal system, and to limit protection to 56 years.”[7] The continuation of the renewal system was simply another way by which the Copyright Act attempted to re-asses the compromise between copyright holder and customers

The 1909 Copyright Act is a prime example of how copyright legislature has evolved in the United States. While it initially attempted to find a compromise between creators and distributors, its existence brought forth the question of how a copyright infringer should be defined. That question can still be debated to this day. Even after the 1909 Act was replaced by the 1976 Act, many of its precedents managed to survive, either within the legislation or on the public consciousness. 


[1] Paul Goldstein, Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 51-52.

[2] Ibid., 53.

[3] Edward Samuels, The Illustrated Story of Copyright (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000), 184.

[4] (Goldstein 2003, 54).

[5] Abe A. Goldman, “Copyright as It Affects Libraries: Legal Implications,” in Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation, ed. Allen Kent and Harold Lancour (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972),

[6] Clement Harrison, “History,” in Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation, ed. Allen Kent and Harold Lancour (New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972), 3.

[7] (Samuels 2000, 206).



Goldstein, Paul. Copyright’s Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Kent, Allen and Harold Lancour, ed. Copyright: Current Viewpoints on History, Laws, Legislation. New York: R.R. Bowker Company, 1972.

Samuels, Edward. The Illustrated Story of Copyright. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.



Week 12 – Project Summary

November 18th, 2011

I thought that this project seemed pretty daunting when we first began it a few weeks ago, but in the end I was satisfied by what we were able to do. Initially, it took some time to nail down a topic that leant itself well to a documentary, given that we would have to do something that went beyond just textual sources. Then came the problem of finding people who were willing to give interviews. It was really through luck that we were able to interview Mr. Brewer, and that interview ended up being vital to the overall credibility of the documantary. Lastly, the technical side of this project was somewhat difficult to grasp, as our intitial attempt at using iMovie was not successful. Also, the audio needed to be adjusted so that it was consistent throughout the documentary. All that being said, there was never a time when the project was actually in danger of failing. Film making may have been a new concept for all of us, but there always seemed to be easy solutions or potential alternatives to pursue. I think that our film did a good job of combining both textual sources and interviews to give a clear depiction of the trouble that the postal service faces.

Week 11 – Project Update

November 11th, 2011

Our group managed to get a good deal of the filming accomplished this week, including our interview with a postal service letter carrier. He provided incredible insight into the inner workings of the postal service,  as well as the the sources for many of their current problems. It was a shame that the interview had to be kept to such a short time length, because their was clearly a lot that could have been addressed. When we went to the local post office last week, we did not succeed in finding someone who was willing to sit down and do an interview with us, which was understandable considering the topic. After being made aware of exactly what these postal workers have to deal with each day, I realized just how lucky we were to get an interview at all. On the technical side, we still have to do editing, and something needs to be done to make the volume consistent throughout the video. Overall, I’d say our project is progressing well.


Week 9 – Advertisement Project

October 28th, 2011

Putting together the radio advertisement was a new experiece for me, given that it was the first time I’ve ever had to do a multi-media history project that was not simply a PowerPoint presentation. Keeping the advertisement at a length of two minutes was not something that I was concerned about until we actually started recording. This project involved a good deal of research on both radio advertisement and printing methods, and so finding the right way to condense everything to meet the time limit could have been incredibly problematic. Fortunately, we managed to do that without any real problem, but it was still worth being aware of the possibility.

Week 8 – Readings

October 21st, 2011

One of the things that really caught my attention with this weeks readings, specifically the selection from Clio Wired: the Future of the Past in the Digital Age, was the difficulty that historians face when they try to trace the origins of the internet. Rosenweig lays out the many factors that contibuted to the creation of the internet, such as the military, the government, companies and individuals. On the one hand, this overall approach is incredibly important because it analyzes the roots of the internet from a multitude of perspectives, thus creating a more complete picture. On the other hand, this also means that a definite beginning is that much harder to find. The invention of the internet cannot be looked at in a single context, and so studying the internet should require a wide range of diversity.

Week 7 – Project Update

October 14th, 2011

This last Thursday night our group was able to finish our project. Everyone came through with their share of the research, and so the rest of the work was completed without complication. One of the problems that I had with the research was the level of vagueness that was coming out of every acceptable source I could find. I was looking up printing technology alternative to the printing press, and after looking at my Asian Civilization text book and a couple of .edu sites, I noticed that they would usually only stress that the Chinese invented and utilized printing before Europe, while the specific machines and methods used were harder to come by. This really made me more appreciative of many of the readings that we have had to do so far. While some of the more technical readings can be fairly hard to follow, you still have to appreciate their ability to explain just what the invention in question actually is. This might seem like a small point to dwell on, but once I lost that attention to detail, I realized just how much I needed it.

The Process and Complications of the Daguerreotype

September 28th, 2011

     Louis Jaques Mande Daguerre revolutionized the world with the invention of the daguerreotype, thus turning the concept of photography into a reality. The daguerreotype became incredibly popular because it could produce exact copies of a subject in significantly less time than it would take a professional painter to produce a less exact image.[1] Daguerre’s invention enabled visual world to be recorded with amazing new detail and accuracy.

     In order to create a successful image using Daguerre’s method, the daguerreotypist had to follow a rigorous series of steps that would put his attention to detail to the test. M. Susan Barger and William B. White explain Daguerre’s five-step process as it was presented to the Institute of Paris on August 19, 1839, by Francois Arago, who spoke on behalf of Daguerre: First, a silver plate was shined until it had the reflective quality of a mirror, using a pumice-oil solution that is cleaned off with water afterwards. The plate was then exposed to iodine vapor until it attained a bright golden color, in a process known as “sensitizing.” Next, the plate is put into the camera, where it was exposed to light coming through the lens, and thus imprinted the image onto the plate. After that, the plate was exposed to mercury vapors, which made the image visible. Finally, the plate was “desensitized” by a salt solution, and meticulously rinsed with water afterwards.[2]   

     Even though there was a distinct step-by-step process for the daguerreotype by 1839, experimentation with the process was constant. One of the reasons why daguerreotype studios became so prevalent was because Daguerre opted to have his findings published, and thus relinquished his potential control over the market and allowing for unrestricted experimentation.[3] The fact that anyone could alter or improve the process could keep the daguerreotype up to date, and can be seen as a major reason why the daguerreotype stayed in fashion for so long.

     For all the success and acclaim that the daguerreotype received, there were still many problems that held it back. The daguerreotype was incredibly sensitive to movement, requiring the subject to remain still for as long as thirty minutes, as well as keep their eyes shut.[4] There was also the possibility that the daguerreotypist would contract mercury poisoning, which could cause, among other things, blindness or death.[5] Severe health concerns can be crippling to any invention, so that fact that people were willing to risk them is indicative of just how in demand the daguerreotype was for the greater population. Another problem was the inconvenience of the plate, itself: it was large, heavy, required an incredible amount of maintenance, and had no negative.[6] If even the smallest detail were to be overlooked by the daguerreotypist, then the plate would be ruined and the image would be lost forever. This meant that as popular as the daguerreotype may have been, there would always be a limit to how much it could improve.



[1] Bates Lowery and Isabel Barrett Lowry, The Silver Canvas: Daguerreotype Masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998), 47.

[2] M. Susan Barger and William B. White. The Daguerreotype: Nineteenth-Century Technology and Modern Science (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 1-2.

[3] (Lowry and Lowry 1998, 47)

[4] Ibid, 46.

[5] John Wood, The Scenic Daguerreotype (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press), 8.

[6] Kenneth E. Nelson “A Thumbnail History of the Daguerreotype.” The Daguerreian Society. http://www.daguerre.org/resource/history/history.html (accessed September 25, 2011).




Barger, M. Susan and William B. White. The Daguerreotype: Nineteenth-Century Technology and Modern Science. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.


Lowry, Bates and Isabel Barrett Lowry. The Silver Canvas: Daguerreotype Masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998.


Wood, John. The Scenic Daguerreotype: Romanticism and Early Photography. Iowa City: The University of Iowa Press, 1995. 


Nelson, Kenneth E. “A Thumbnail History of the Daguerreotype.” The Daguerreian Society. http://www.daguerre.org/resource/history/history.html (accessed September 25, 2011).


Project Update – Week 4

September 23rd, 2011

I ended up getting pretty sick this last Thursday night, so progress on my paper has stalled a little. However, I was able to get to the library right before I started feeling  sick, where I was able to find a book called The Daguerreotype. As the title suggests, this book is all about  the daguerreotype, from its history to its applications. Presently, I am on chapter 4, entitled “the Technological Practice pf Daguerreotypy,” which is really getting into the details about the process. As for the complications, some have been brought up as side notes to the process, but I still need to see if there are any major complictions that I have missed. Once that is out of the way, writing the paper will be very straight-forward.

Project Update – Week 3

September 16th, 2011

Admittedly, I was fairly late in getting my topic confired (the process and complications of the daguerreotype), so I still have quite a bit more research to do. One thing I have read that has really impressed me is just how much of an attention to detail was needed for the process to be successful. If the copper plates had any scratches or grooves, or if the buffing of said plates was not thorough enough, the picture quaility would be drastically reduced. Even the room temperature of the dark room needed to be watched, as it could increase the development length if it were too cool. Using the daguerreotype was clearly an intricate process with little room for error. Given that the daguerreotype seemed to have stayed popular in its time,  the result must have been worth it. As I continue, I will have to look for a more exact layout of the process, but this seems like a good starting point for the moment.