THIS was an appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the district of Rhode Island. It was a branch of the case of Stevens v. Cady, reported in 14 How. 528, and the difference between the two cases is stated in the opinion of the court. The decree of the circuit court was as follows:––
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Curtis delivered the opinion of the court.
This cause came on to be heard on the bill, answer, replication, depositions, and other papers in the case, and after the hearing, it is ordered by the court that the following entry be made on the minutes in relation to the same:––
'The court differ in opinion as to the effect of the sale of the copperplate, but agree that injunction cannot issue without a return of the money paid for the plate.'
And afterwards, at the same term, Mr. Stevens having the election to return the price of the plate or not, elected not to return the same, upon which the respondents move that the bill be dismissed, which is dismissed as follows:––
This cause having been heard on the bill, answer, and other pleadings therein, and the complainant having refused to return the price of the plate of the map in question as required by the court:
It is now, on motion of the respondents, and by the consideration of the court, ordered, adjudged, and decreed, that the said bill be and the same is hereby dismissed, with costs.
November term, A. D. 1849.
From this decree, Stevens appealed to this court.
It was submitted on a printed argument by the appellant, and argued by Mr. Ames, for the appellees.
Mr. Ames made the following points:––
1. The 7th section of the act of congress, approved February 3, 1831, entitled 'An act to amend the several acts respecting copyrights,' (4 Stats. at Large, 438,) inflicting forfeiture and penalties upon those who shall sell any map, &c., 'without the consent of the proprietor or proprietors of the copyright thereof, first obtained in writing, signed in the presence of two credible witnesses,' applies only to persons claiming the right of sale by act of party, and not to those claiming and proving such right by act or operation of law. 4 Stats. at Large, 435, § 1; Hesse v. Stevenson, 3 Bos. and Pul. 565, 578; Bloxam v. Elsee, 1 C. and P. 578; S. C. 11 Eng. C. L. R. 468; S. C. in Error, 6 B. and C. 69; S. C. 13 Eng. C. L. R. 133; Cartwright v. Amatt, 2 Bos. and Pul. 43; Sawin et al. v. Guild, 1 Gallison, 485; Wilson v. Rousseau, 4 How. 646; Webster on Patents, 21-23, 82, n. n.; Godson on Patents and Copyright, 2d ed. 219, 221, 377, 430; 2 Renouard Trait e des Droits d'Auteurs, ch. 3, § 4, arts. 204, 205, p. 348, and onwards.
2. Copyrights and patent-rights are, by the law of England, and in conformity to the principles of justice and policy prevailing there, as well as in contries of the civil law, liable, as goods and chattels, to the payment of the debts of the authors or inventors who may hold them. As goods and chattels they pass to assignees in bankruptcy, and to provisional assignees in insolvency, as 'the assignees' or 'representatives' of the bankrupt or insolvent author or inventor; and, both in England and in France, may be seized and sold on execution or decrees of seizure issued against him. Hesse v. Stevenson, supra; Bloxam v. Elsee, supra; Cartwright v. Amatt, supra; Mary York v. Twine, Cro. Jac. 78; Sewall, Office of Sheriff, 225, 46 Law Lib.; Webster on Patents, 21-23; Godson on Patents and Copyright, 219, 221, incl. 430; Renouard Trait e des Droits d'Auteurs, 348, 349, &c., ch. 3, § 4, arts. 204, 205.
3. After an author has printed his book, or map, in performance of the contract of copyright with the public, and it has thus passed from the condition of a thought or conception still under deliberation, as well as after a patented machine has been completed and sold by the inventor, in fulfilment of the contract of his letters-patent, and he has, in any manifest form, clothed his incorporeal right with a valuable corporeal substance, and, abstracting other values for the purpose, has brought it into the condition of property, in the nature of a personal, tangible good or chattel, he thereby has made the right to use and sell the same, appurtenant thereto; and public policy, common honesty, attention to the true interests of the author or proprietor of the copyright, as well as of his creditors, and every legal analogy, require that the two should not be dissevered for the purpose of enabling him to defeat the rights of his ...