We’ve taken advantage of past Presidents Days to recount George Washington’s role in the history of U.S. Copyright law, specifically the birth of fair use. That role was not insubstantial, but it was posthumous and, therefore, unwitting. By contrast, Abraham Lincoln’s contribution to copyright law was likely quite intentional.
On March 3, 1865, President Lincoln signed into law “An Act to Amend Several Acts Respecting Copyright,” the galley of which contained the subheading: “Photographs … may be copyrighted.” This was the first U.S.… More