One Hundred Fifty Years of Copyright at the Library of Congress

The year 1870 is significant for copyright and the Library of Congress. Prior to that year, copyright registration was administered by the U.S. District Courts. Starting in 1870, the copyright registration and deposit system was centralized in the Library of Congress. One of the requirements for protecting your creation with copyright was to send in two copies of the work being copyrighted.

As you can imagine, this meant a flood of books, music and visual materials of all kinds started arriving at the Library of Congress. When they were chosen by staff, some of these items made their way to various collections in the Library of Congress, including the Prints and Photographs Division. Hundreds of thousands of items have been added to the Prints and Photographs Division’s holdings over the last 150 years thanks to this treasure trove of prints, photos, posters and more.

Browse just a handful of the array of images available online for all to enjoy thanks to copyright deposits:

Champion Jack Johnson at wheel of his 90 horse power Thomas Flyer. Photo copyrighted by Louis Van Oeyen, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.31942

Champion Jack Johnson at wheel of his 90 horse power Thomas Flyer. Photo copyrighted by Louis Van Oeyen, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.31942

United States Senate [of 36th Congress]. Photo copyrighted by Mathew M. Brady, 1859.

United States Senate [of 36th Congress]. Photo copyrighted by Mathew M. Brady, 1859. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.23725

With love, to my valentine. Chromolithograph copyrighted by Obpacher Bros., 1884. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.14117

With love, to my valentine. Chromolithograph copyrighted by Obpacher Bros., 1884. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.14117

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, steamer at pier. Photo copyrighted by Harold A. Parker, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pan.6a02478

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, steamer at pier. Photo copyrighted by Harold A. Parker, 1910. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pan.6a02478

Kodak. Photo copyrighted by Anne Brigman, 1908. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.39003

Kodak. Photo copyrighted by Anne Brigman, 1908. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.39003

[Princeton University woman baseball player]. Lithograph copyrighted by Louise Clarke, 1905. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18837

[Princeton University woman baseball player]. Lithograph copyrighted by Louise Clarke, 1905. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.18837

Red Messina Orange. Print copyrighted by Hance brothers & White, 1897. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b48081

Red Messina Orange. Print copyrighted by Hance brothers & White, 1897. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b48081

A portrait of Minnie Krailey. Photo copyrighted by Milton Caldwell Helm, 1911. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.12859

A portrait of Minnie Krailey. Photo copyrighted by Milton Caldwell Helm, 1911. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.12859

Tribune Tower Building, Chicago, Illinois, looking north-east. Photo copyrighted 1931. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.50260

Tribune Tower Building, Chicago, Illinois, looking north-east. Photo copyrighted 1931. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.50260

The ancestor of the ferris wheel, Egypt. Stereograph copyrighted by C.H. Graves, 1904. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s21921

The ancestor of the ferris wheel, Egypt. Stereograph copyrighted by C.H. Graves, 1904. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s21921

"Dig". Chromolithograph copyrighted by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, 1909. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.15753

“Dig”. Chromolithograph copyrighted by Sadie Wendell Mitchell, 1909. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.15753

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