George Thuronyi, the deputy director of Public Information and Education for the Copyright Office, chooses some of his favorite historical items submitted for copyright registration.
Alan Alexander “A.A.” Milne registered many works with the Copyright Office during his lifetime — plays, novels, short stories, music. In 1924, he published a collection of children’s poems, “When We Were Very Young,” inspired by his son and his stuffed animals. What makes this work meaningful is that it included the first appearance of a character, Edward Bear, Milne soon would make famous under another name: Winnie-the-Pooh.
Mark Twain was a stalwart defender of authors’ rights and lobbied hard for international copyright protection, which finally was enacted in 1891. Detailed registration records for his literary masterpieces were painstakingly handwritten onto 4-by-6-inch catalog cards, including this one for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” under the name Samuel Langhorne Clemens.
A Polka for Baseball
Perhaps no sport has inspired more music — and produced more copyright registrations — than baseball. This piece, “Home Run Polka,” was composed by Mrs. W.J. Bodell of Washington, D.C., and registered for copyright in a U.S. District Court in 1867. Bodell “respectfully dedicated” her polka to the National Baseball Club of Washington, a team of government workers, clerks, lawyers and war veterans who that year embarked on baseball’s first “tour of the West.”
Tool of the Trade
In the early 20th century, Copyright Office clerks used dip pens to record copyrights in ledger books. A busy clerk likely left this one inside a manuscript for the George Scarborough play “What is Love?” when it was registered in 1913, and the pen remained tucked among the pages until it was discovered decades later. This style of dip pen also is notable because it was the inspiration for the Copyright Office seal used between 1978 and 2004.
“I Will Survive”
Gloria Gaynor scored a No. 1 hit in 1979 with this iconic dance-floor anthem of determination and perseverance. Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren wrote “Survive” as a made-for-hire piece for Perren-Vibes Music Co., which submitted the original copyright application. Polydor Inc. submitted the application for the original sound recording of the single and for the album, “Love Tracks,” from which it was drawn. “Survive” was added to the Library’s National Recording Registry in 2015.
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