Bong v. Campbell Art Co.
Annotate this Case
214 U.S. 236 (1909)
U.S. Supreme Court
Bong v. Campbell Art Co., 214 U.S. 236 (1909)
Bong v. Alfred S. Campbell Art Company
Argued April 15, 1909
Decided May 24, 1909
214 U.S. 236
Under § 4952, Rev.Stat., as amended by the Act of March 3, 1891, c. 565, 26 Stat. 1106, the assignee of an author of a painting is not entitled to copyright unless the author is a citizen of a country to the citizens of which reciprocal copyright privileges have actually been extended by proclamation of the President in conformity with § 13 of the Act of March 3, 1891. The fact that the assignee is a citizen of such a country does not entitle him to copyright.
An assignee within the meaning of the copyright statute is one who receives a transfer not necessarily of the painting, but of the right to multiply copies thereof, and such right depends not only upon the statute, but is derived also from the painter, who must have the right to copyright in order to assign it.
A citizen of a country not in copyright relations with the United States under § 13 of the act of 1891 is not entitled to avail of the copyright because his country is a member of the Montevideo Union.
The provision in § 13 of the act of 1891, providing that the President on determining certain conditions extend the privileges of copyright to citizens of countries which are parties to a copyright union to which the United States may become a party, is not directory, and confers no rights independent of the President's proclamation.
Where a statute contemplates reciprocity of rights, the President is the best-fitted officer to determine whether the conditions on which reciprocity depends exist, and this Court approves the construction given by the State Department and the Librarian of Congress to the copyright statutes as denying copyright protection to Peru, no proclamation extending copyright to the citizens of that country having ever been made by the President.
Where the head of a department of the government is authorized to make regulations in aid of a law, he cannot make regulations which defeat it. Williamson v. United States, 207 U. S. 425.
The practice of disposing of cases on the opening of counsel is generally an unsafe method of procedure; the case should be developed by the evidence. Hoffman House v. Foote, 172 N.Y. 348, approved.
155 F. 116 affirmed.
The facts, which involve the construction of the international and reciprocity provisions of the Copyright ,Act, are stated in the opinion.
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