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Collection Dolly Parton and the Roots of Country Music

Dolly Parton and Copyright

A sampling of copyright submissions for works by Dolly Parton (U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress). Photo: Pat Padua

Dolly Parton is a performer who has protected her prodigious output of songs and other original works since early in her career. She does so by registering her materials with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

It is a principle of American law that an author of a work may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity for a limited period of time. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and, in the case of certain works, publicly perform or display the work; other rights apply as well (for more information, see: Circular 1: Copyright Basics). The U. S. Copyright Office was created to register these works in 1790. In 1870 all functions were centralized in the Library of Congress, and it became a separate department of the Library in 1897.

The U.S. Copyright Office database shows 862 entries for Dolly Parton as either author or claimant. This database only records actions since January 1, 1978, including original registrations and renewals of items registered prior to 1978. There are additional earlier registrations for Dolly Parton which are accessed through the card file index housed in the Copyright Office. Entries for Dolly Parton include unpublished and published songs, sound recordings, and literary texts as well as visual art. The earliest entry for Dolly Parton in the automated database indicates the renewal in 1990 of a 1962 registration of "It's Sure Gonna Hurt", by Dolly and her uncle Bill Owens. "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" was renewed in 1993. Typically, music copyright deposits come in the form of sheet music or lead sheets; more recent registration deposits may consist of sound recordings.