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W.K.L. Dickson's copyright registration for "Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze," January 9, 1894

Congress passed the first copyright law covering motion pictures in 1912. Previously movies were registered and deposited for copyright as photographic prints, not as film. This print is the earliest surviving record for a copyrighted motion picture. W.K.L. Dickson created it to demonstrate the new Kinetoscope. Fred Ott, an Edison laboratory employee, performed the comic sneeze.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

W.K.L. Dickson's copyright registration for "Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze," January 9, 1894

Copyrighting Creative Works

The U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to "promote the progress of ... useful arts." In 1790 Congress passed the first Copyright Act protecting creators' rights to books, maps, and other intellectual property. Congress revised the law in the 19th century to centralize copyright deposits and registrations in the Library of Congress, including foreign works. The influx of materials demanded larger quarters for the nation's library; in 1897 the Library of Congress moved from the U.S. Capitol to its own building, later named the Thomas Jefferson Building.