American Tobacco Co. v. Werckmeister
207 U.S. 284 (1907)

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U.S. Supreme Court

American Tobacco Co. v. Werckmeister, 207 U.S. 284 (1907)

American Tobacco Company v. Werckmeister

No. 28

Argued October 30, 1907

Decided December 2, 1907

207 U.S. 284




In construing a statute, while the court must gain the legislative intent primarily from the language used, it must remember the objects and purposes of the statute and the conditions of its enactment, so as to effectuate, rather than destroy the spirit of that intent.

The purpose of the copyright statute is not so much to protect the physical thing created as to protect the right of publication and reproduction, and the statute should be construed in view of the character of the property intended to be protected.

In the case of a painting, map, drawing, etc., the copyright notice required by § 4962 Rev.Stat. need not be inscribed upon the original article itself; the statute is complied with if the notice is inscribed upon the published copies thereof which it is desired to protect.

In the United States, property in copyright is the creation of federal statute passed in the exercise of the power vested in Congress by Article I, § 8, of the federal Constitution, to promote the progress of science and the useful

Page 207 U. S. 285

arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries, and the statute should be given fair and reasonable construction to effect such purpose.

The federal copyright statute recognizes the separate ownership of the right of copying from that which inheres in the physical control of the thing itself, and gives to the assigns of the original owner of the right to copyright the right to take out copyright independently of the ownership of the article itself.

The property of an author or painter in his intellectual creation is absolute until he voluntarily parts therewith. While the public exhibition of a painting or statue where all can see and copy it might amount to a publication, where the exhibition is made subject to reservation of copyright and to restrictions rigidly enforced against copying, it does not amount to a publication.

In a suit brought in replevin under the New York Code to recover infringing copies of the plaintiff's copyrighted article, it is too late to object to the form of remedy on the motion for new trial.

Adams v. New York,192 U. S. 585, and Hale v. Henkel,201 U. S. 43, followed to effect that defendant's rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments were not violated by the seizure of infringing copies of copyrighted articles or by the use thereof as evidence.

146 F. 375 affirmed.

This is a writ of error to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit seeking reversal of a judgment affirming the judgment of the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York in favor of the defendant in error, adjudging him to be entitled to the possession of 1196 sheets, each containing a copy of a certain picture called "Chorus," the same representing a company of gentlemen with filled glasses, singing in chorus. The painting was the work of an English artist, W. Dendy Sadler. The defendant in error claimed to be the owner of a copyright taken out under the law of the United States.

The judgment was rendered under authority of § 4965, as amended March 2, 1895. 28 Stat. 965.

In January, 1894, by agreement between the artist and Werckmeister, the defendant in error, it was agreed that the painting should be finished by March 1, and then sent to Werckmeister to be photographed and returned to Sadler in time to

Page 207 U. S. 286

exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1894. The painting was sent to Werckmeister at Berlin, where it was received on March 8, 1894, and was returned to Sadler in London on March 22, 1894. On April 2, 1894, the artist Sadler executed and delivered the following instrument:

"I hereby transfer the copyright in my picture 'Chorus' to the Photographische Gesellschaft, Berlin (The Berlin Photographic Company), for the sum of

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