Talk:Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908)

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Maura

It is contended that this power to control further sales is given by statute to the owner of such a copyright in conferring the sole right to ‘vend’ a copyrighted book.

‘There are such wide differences between the right of multiplying and vending copies of a production protected by the copyright statute and the rights secured to an inventor under the patent statutes, that the cases which relate to the one subject are not altogether controlling as to the other.’

The learned counsel for the appellant in this case, in the argument at bar, disclaims relief because of any contract, and relies solely upon the copyright statutes, and rights therein conferred. The copyright statutes ought to be reasonably construed, with a view to effecting the purposes intended by Congress. They ought not to be unduly extended by judicial construction to include privileges not intended to be conferred, nor so narrowly construed as to deprive those entitled to their benefit of the rights Congress intended to grant.

In order to secure this right it was provided in that statute, as it has been in subsequent ones, that the authors of books, their executors, administrators, or assigns, shall have the ‘sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, and vending’ such book for a term of years, upon complying with the statutory conditions set forth in the act as essential to the acquiring of a valid copyright. Each and all of these statutory rights should be given such protection as the act of Congress requires, in order to secure the rights conferred upon authors and others entitled to the benefit of the act. Let us see more specifically what are the statutory rights, in this behalf, secured to one who has complied with the provisions of the law and become the owner of a copyright. They may be found in §§ 4952, 4965, and 4970 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, and are as follows:

‘Sec. 4952. Any citizen of the United States or resident therein, who shall be the author, inventor, designer, or proprietor of any book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition, engraving, cut, print, or photograph or negative thereof, or of a painting, drawing, chromo, statute, statuary, and of models or designs intended to be perfected as works of the fine arts, and the executors, administrators, or assigns of any such person, shall, upon complying with the provisions of this chapter, have the sole liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, completing, copying, executing, finishing, and vending the same.’ U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3406.

‘Sec. 4965. If any person, after the recording of the title of any map, chart, musical composition, print, cut, engraving, or photograph, or chromo, or of the description of any painting, drawing, statue, statuary, or model or design intended to be perfected and executed as a work of the fine arts, as provided by this chapter, shall, within the term limited, and without the consent of the proprietor of the copyright first obtained in writing, signed in presence of two or more witnesses, engrave, etch, work, copy, print, publish, or import, either in whole or in part, or by varying the main design with intent to evade the law, or, knowing the same to be so printed, published, or imported, shall sell or expose to sale any copy of such map or other article, as aforesaid, he shall forfeit to the proprietor all the plates on which the same shall be copied, and every sheet thereof, either copied or printed, and shall further forfeit one dollar for every sheet of the same found in his possession, either printing, printed, copied, published, imported, or exposed for sale; and in case of a painting, statute, or statuary, he shall forfeit ten dollars for every copy of the same in his possession, or by him sold or exposed for sale, one half thereof to the proprietor and the other half to the use of the United States.’ U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3414.

The purchaser of a book, once sold by authority of the owner of the copyright, may sell it again, although he could not publish a new edition of it.

In our view the copyright statutes, while protecting the owner of the copyright in his right to multiply and sell his production, do not create the right to impose, by notice, such as is disclosed in this case, a limitation at which the book shall be sold at retail by future purchasers, with whom there is no privity of contract.

To add to the right of exclusive sale the authority to control all future retail sales, by a notice that such sales must be made at a fixed sum, would give a right not included in the terms of the statute, and, in our view, extend its operation, by construction, beyond its meaning, when interpreted with a view to ascertaining the legislative intent in its enactment.

Courtney

The present case involves rights under the copyright act. The facts disclose a sale of a book at wholesale by the owners of the copyright, at a satisfactory price, and this without agreement between the parties to such sale obligating the purchaser to control future sales, and where the alleged right springs from the protection of the copyright law alone. It is contended that this power to control further sales is given by statute to the owner of such a copyright in conferring the sole right to ‘vend’ a copyrighted book.

While the nature of the property and the protection intended to be given the inventor or author as the reward of genius or intellect in the production of his book or work of art is to be considered in construing the act of Congress, it is evident that to secure the author the right to multiply copies of his work may be said to have been the main purpose of the copyright statutes. Speaking for this court in Stephens v. Cady, 14 How. 528, 530, 14 L. ed. 528, 529, Mr. Justice Nelson said:

‘The copyright is an exclusive right to the multiplication of the copies, for the benefit of the author or his assigns, disconnected from the plate, or any other physical existence. It is an incorporeal right to print and publish the map; or, as said by Lord Mansfield in Millar v. Taylor, 4 Burr. 2396, ‘a propeety in notion, and has no corporeal, tangible substance.’'

The precise question, therefore, in this case is, Does the sole right to vend (named in § 4952) secure to the owner of the copyright the right, after a sale of the book to a purchaser, to restrict future sales of the book at retail, to the right to sell it at a certain price per copy, because of a notice in the book that a sale at a different price will be treated as an infringement, which notice has been brought home to one undertaking to sell for less than the named sum? We do not think the statute can be given such a construction, and it is to be remembered that this is purely a question of statutory construction. There is no claim in this case of contract limitation, nor license agreement controlling the subsequent sales of the book.

In our view the copyright statutes, while protecting the owner of the copyright in his right to multiply and sell his production, do not create the right to impose, by notice, such as is disclosed in this case, a limitation at which the book shall be sold at retail by future purchasers, with whom there is no privity of contract. This conclusion is reached in view of the language of the statute, read in the light of its main purpose to secure the right of multiplying copies of the work,-a right which is the special creation of the statute. True, the statute also secures, to make this right of multiplication effectual, the sole right to vend copies of the book, the production of the author's thought and conception. The owner of the copyright in this case did sell copies of the book in quantities and at a price satisfactory to it. It has exercised the right to vend. What the complainant contends for embraces not only the right to sell the copies, but to qualify the title of a future purchaser by the reservation of the right to have the remedies of the statute against an infringer because of the printed notice of its purpose so to do unless the purchaser sells at a price fixed in the notice. To add to the right of exclusive sale the authority to control all future retail sales, by a notice that such sales must be made at a fixed sum, would give a right not included in the terms of the statute, and, in our view, extend its operation, by construction, beyond its meaning, when interpreted with a view to ascertaining the legislative intent in its enactment.

Kevin

We may say in passing, disclaiming any intention to indicate our views as to what would be the rights of parties in circumstances similar to the present case under the patent laws, that there are differences between the patent and copyright statutes in the extent of the protection granted by them. This was recognized by Judge Lurton, who wrote a leading case on the subject in the Federal courts (Button Fastener Case, supra), for he said in the subsequent case of John D. Park & Sons Co. v. Hartman, 12 L.R.A.(N.S.) 135, 82 C. C. A. 158, 153 Fed. 24: ‘There are such wide differences between the right of multiplying and vending copies of a production protected by the copyright statute and the rights secured to an inventor under the patent statutes, that the cases which relate to the one subject are not altogether controlling as to the other.’

In order to secure this right it was provided in that statute, as it has been in subsequent ones, that the authors of books, their executors, administrators, or assigns, shall have the ‘sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing, and vending’ such book for a term of years, upon complying with the statutory conditions set forth in the act as essential to the acquiring of a valid copyright. Each and all of these statutory rights should be given such protection as the act of Congress requires, in order to secure the rights conferred upon authors and others entitled to the benefit of the act.

In our view the copyright statutes, while protecting the owner of the copyright in his right to multiply and sell his production, do not create the right to impose, by notice, such as is disclosed in this case, a limitation at which the book shall be sold at retail by future purchasers, with whom there is no privity of contract.