Sojourner Truth registered her historic image “I sell the shadow to support the substance” with the US Copyright Office in 1864. To me, it’s remarkable that in addition to Sojourner Truth’s famed work as an African-American abolitionist and advocate for women’s rights… she was also a copyright owner.
Back in 1864 when Sojourner Truth registered her image with the US Copyright Office, the copyright laws were different than they are today… and claiming copyright protection involved more formalities. However, the basic principles of copyright protection were the same: controlling the copying, printing, reprinting and publishing of a registered work. Evidently, Sojourner Truth sold copies of her image to raise money for the abolitionist movement. (ie a good motivation to control the use, copying, printing and reprinting of the image with copyright registration).
While I have always held Sojourner Truth in high regard for her historic advocacy work, I’m adding copyright owner to the list of her heroic acts.
(The copyright notice on Sojourner Truth’s historic image caught my eye while visiting a recent exhibition of Civil War Photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
See also, www.nps.gov/wori/historyculture/sojourner-truth.htm; US Copyright Act of 1790 at www.copyright.gov/history/1790act; www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98501244/; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
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