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:
- Enjoy a sampling of the items received by copyright deposit in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
- Read a previous Picture This blog post about historical prints deposited for copyright at the Library of Congress: A Grand Entry: Entered According to Act of Congress.
- Visit the Engage Your Creativity website from the U.S. Copyright Office, which shares resources as they celebrate their 150th anniversary at the Library of Congress all year.
I’m confused by the date given in this article–1870–as the date copyrights were then issued from the Library of Congress. I asked an LOC staffer specifically about the photographs from the Wright brothers that are in the LOC files and elsewhere. I thought the staff person told me that the (1900 to 1912) photographs predate the LOC copyright system and that I could use them freely on my own Web site (with attribution to the LOC, of course).
I would appreciate some clarification. Many thanks.