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Under the 1909 Copyright Act, to avoid the severe consequences of publication without notice (known as general publication or divestitive publication, because it resulted in loss of the copyright), courts developed the doctrine of limited publication. A "limited publication" occurs when the work is distributed to a select group of people for a limited purpose, without the right to reproduce or redistribute. Limited publication without notice did not result in loss, or “divestiture,” of common law rights.
A "limited publication" has been defined as one that
|“||communicates the contents of a (work) . . . to a definitely selected group and for a limited purpose, and without the right of diffusion, reproduction, distribution or sale . . . (and) does not result in loss of the author's common-law right to his (work). . . . (T)he circulation must be restricted both as to persons and purpose, or it can not be called a private or limited publication.||”|
The restrictions can be implied as well as express.