Thorvald Solberg

Last updated
Thorvald Solberg
Thorvald Solberg.jpg
1st Register of Copyrights
In office
July 22, 1897 April 21, 1930
Preceded by None
Succeeded by William Lincoln Brown
Personal details
Born April 22, 1852
Manitowoc, Wisconsin
Died July 15, 1949(1949-07-15) (aged 97)
Glen Echo, Maryland
Spouse(s) Mary Adelaide Nourse
Residence Glen Echo, Maryland

Thorvald Solberg (April 22, 1852 – July 15, 1949) was the first Register of Copyrights (1897–1930) in the United States Copyright Office. He was a noted authority on copyright and played an instrumental role in shaping the Copyright Act of 1909.

Register of Copyrights

The Register of Copyrights is the director of the United States Copyright Office within the Library of Congress, as provided by 17 U.S.C. § 701. The Office has been headed by a Register since 1897. The Register is appointed by, and responsible to, the Librarian of Congress.

United States Copyright Office

The United States Copyright Office, a part of the Library of Congress, is the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the United States including a Copyright Catalog. It is used by copyright title searchers who are attempting to clear a chain of title for copyrighted works.

Copyright is a legal right, existing in many countries, that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to determine whether, and under what conditions, this original work may be used by others. This is usually only for a limited time. Copyright is one of two types of intellectual property rights, the other is industrial property rights. The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by limitations and exceptions to copyright law, including fair use. A major limitation on copyright on ideas is that copyright protects only the original expression of ideas, and not the underlying ideas themselves.


Early life

Thorvald Solberg was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He was the eldest of six children born of immigrant Norwegian parents. Solberg attended public schools, working for booksellers after graduation in Manitowoc, Boston, Detroit, Knoxville, and Omaha.

Manitowoc, Wisconsin City in Wisconsin, United States

Manitowoc is a city in and the county seat of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, United States. The city is located on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Manitowoc River. According to the 2010 census, Manitowoc had a population of 33,736, with over 50,000 residents in the surrounding communities. The city's sister city is Kamogawa, Japan.

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth-largest in the United States.

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest United States city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

On May 1, 1876, Solberg began working in the Library of Congress as a cataloguer. In 1876, he became part of the Library's law department staff, despite not being a lawyer. While there, he played an active role in the direction and control of the Library's copyright registration and deposit functions. He remained in that position until he left the Library altogether in 1889 to work for the Boston Book Company.

Library of Congress (de facto) national library of the United States of America

The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The Library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; it also maintains the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. The Library's functions are overseen by the Librarian of Congress, and its buildings are maintained by the Architect of the Capitol. The Library of Congress has claims to be the largest library in the world. Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages."

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

Copyright registration

The purpose of copyright registration is to place on record a verifiable account of the date and content of the work in question, so that in the event of a legal claim, or case of infringement or plagiarism, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government source.

Register of Copyrights

In 1897, Congress created the United States Copyright Office as a separate department of the Library of Congress to handle the administrative functions of copyright law. Solberg was widely supported to become the first head of the Office due to his growing reputation as a national authority on copyright (and due to some lobbying on his own part for the post). [1] After being interviewed by President William McKinley, Solberg was appointed by Librarian of Congress John Russell Young and took office as the first Register of Copyrights on July 22, 1897, with an annual salary of $3000 and a staff of 29 clerks. [2]

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

William McKinley 25th president of the United States

William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination six months into his second term. McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry and kept the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of free silver.

John Russell Young Librarian of Congress

John Russell Young was an American journalist, author, diplomat, and the seventh Librarian of the United States Congress from 1897 to 1899. He was invited by Ulysses S. Grant to accompany him on a world tour for purposes of recording the two-year journey, which he published in a two-volume work.

During his tenure as Register, Solberg played an active role in advancing United States copyright law. He advocated copyright reform and was instrumental in the passage of the Copyright Act of 1909, one of the most significant revisions in United States copyright law. He was known as a champion for the rights of authors and supported relaxing the registration and deposit requirements of copyright law, [3] consistent with the shift away from copyright formalities in the Berne Convention. Solberg also pushed for the United States to join the Berne Convention.

Copyright Act of 1909 copyright statute of the United States

The Copyright Act of 1909 was a landmark statute in United States statutory copyright law. It became Pub.L. 60–349 on March 4, 1909 by the 60th United States Congress, and it went into effect on July 1, 1909. The Act was repealed and superseded by the Copyright Act of 1976, but it remains effective for copyrighted works created before the Copyright Act of 1976 went into effect in January 1, 1978. It allowed for works to be copyrighted for a period of 28 years from the date of publication but extended the preexisting renewal term of 14 years to 28 years, for a maximum of 56 years.

Copyright formalities are legal requirements needed to obtain a copyright in a particular jurisdiction. Common copyright formalities include copyright registration, copyright renewal, copyright notice, and copyright deposit.

Berne Convention 1880s international copyright treaty adopted by 160+ countries

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland, in 1886.

Thorvald Solberg retired as Register on April 21, 1930, his 78th birthday. He remains the longest-serving Register of Copyrights.

Personal life

Thorvald Solberg was married to Mary Adelaide Nourse of Lynn, Massachusetts. He resided on Capitol Hill when he began his stint as Register of Copyrights. In 1914, Solberg moved to Glen Echo, Maryland, where he resided until his death. Solberg was a prolific writer, and he compiled several bibliographies and compilations of United States and foreign copyright laws.

Lynn, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Lynn is the 9th largest municipality in Massachusetts and the largest city in Essex County. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, 3.7 miles (6.0 km) north of the Boston city line at Suffolk Downs, Lynn is part of Greater Boston's urban inner core. Settled by Europeans in 1629, Lynn is the 5th oldest colonial settlement in the Commonwealth. An early industrial center, Lynn was long colloquially referred to as the "City of Sin", owing to its historical reputation for crime and vice. Today, however, the city is known for its contemporary public art, international population, historic architecture, downtown cultural district, loft-style apartments, and public parks and open spaces, which include the oceanfront Lynn Shore Reservation; the 2,200-acre, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Lynn Woods Reservation; and the High Rock Tower Reservation. Lynn also is home to Lynn Heritage State Park, the southernmost portion of the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway, and the seaside, National Register-listed Diamond Historic District.

Capitol Hill neighborhood in Washington D.C.

Capitol Hill, in addition to being a metonym for the United States Congress, is the largest historic residential neighborhood in Washington, D.C., stretching easterly in front of the United States Capitol along wide avenues. It is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., and with roughly 35,000 people in just under 2 square miles (5 km2), it is also one of the most densely populated.

Glen Echo, Maryland Town in Maryland, United States

Glen Echo is a town in Montgomery County, Maryland, United States, that was chartered in 1904. The population was 255 at the 2010 census.

Selected writings


Related Research Articles

Copyright Act of 1790 copyright statute of the United States

The Copyright Act of 1790 was the first federal copyright act to be instituted in the United States, though most of the states had passed various legislation securing copyrights in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War. The stated object of the act was the "encouragement of learning," and it achieved this by securing authors the "sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending" the copies of their "maps, charts, and books" for a term of 14 years, with the right to renew for one additional 14-year term should the copyright holder still be alive.

National library Library specifically established by the government

A national library is a library established by a government as a country's preeminent repository of information. Unlike public libraries, these rarely allow citizens to borrow books. Often, they include numerous rare, valuable, or significant works. A National Library is that library which has the duty of collecting and preserving the literature of the nation within and outside the country. Thus, National Libraries are those libraries whose community is the nation at large. Examples include the British Library, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

International Copyright Act of 1891

The International Copyright Act of 1891 is the first U.S. congressional act that extended limited protection to foreign copyright holders from select nations. Formally known as the "International Copyright Act of 1891", but more commonly referred to as the "Chace Act" after Sen. Jonathan Chace of Rhode Island.

Uruguay Round Agreements Act

The Uruguay Round Agreements Act is an Act of Congress in the United States that implemented in U.S. law the Marrakesh Agreement of 1994. The Marrakesh Agreement was part of the Uruguay Round of negotiations which transformed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) into the World Trade Organization (WTO). One of its effects is to give United States copyright protection to some works that had previously been in the public domain in the United States.

The copyright symbol, or copyright sign, ©, is the symbol used in copyright notices for works other than sound recordings. The use of the symbol is described by the Universal Copyright Convention. The symbol is widely recognized, but under the Berne Convention is no longer required to obtain a new copyright in most nations.

The Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 is a copyright act that came into force in the United States on March 1, 1989, making it a party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

William F. Patry is an American lawyer specializing in copyright law. He studied at the San Francisco State University, where he obtained a B.A. in 1974 and an M.A. in 1976, and then at the University of Houston, where he graduated with a J.D. in 1980. He was admitted to the bar in Texas in 1981, in the District of Columbia in 2000, and in New York in 2001.

Samuel J. Barrows American politician

Samuel June Barrows was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

Solberg is a surname of Norwegian origin, and may refer to:

<i>Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp.</i> Legal case

Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191, was a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality. Even though accurate reproductions might require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element to determine whether a work is copyrightable under US law is originality.

Thorvald is from the Old Norse name Þórvaldr, which means "Thor's ruler". Despite this pagan origin, the name survived the conversion of Scandinavians to Christianity and remains popular up to the present.

William Lincoln Brown (1862–1940) was the second Register of Copyrights (1934–36) in the United States Copyright Office. He presided over the office during a time when Congress was active in proposing copyright legislation in the wake of the 1909 Copyright Act and leading up to the Copyright Act of 1976.

Barbara Ringer United States Register of Copyright

Barbara Ringer was one of the lead architects of the 1976 Copyright Act. She spent much of her career lobbying Congress and drafting legislation that overhauled the 1909 Copyright Act.

Copyright Act of 1831

The Copyright Act of 1831 was the first major revision to the U.S. Copyright Law. The bill is largely the result of lobbying efforts by American lexicographer Noah Webster.

Copyright Act of 1870

The Copyright Act of 1870, also called the Patent Act of 1870 and the Trade Mark Act of 1870, was a revision to United States intellectual property law, covering copyrights and patents. Eight sections of the bill, sometimes called the Trade Mark Act of 1870, introduced trademarks to United States federal law, although that portion was later deemed unconstitutional after the Trade-Mark Cases.


  1. Cole, John Y., Of Copyright, Men & a National Library , The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Vol. 28, April 1971.
  2. Litman, Jessica (2006). Digital Copyright . Prometheus Books.
  3. Sprigman, Christopher (November 2004). "Reform(aliz)ing Copyright". Stanford Law Review. 57: 485. ISSN   0038-9765. SSRN   578502 .
Government offices
Preceded by
New position
Register of Copyrights
Succeeded by
William Lincoln Brown