Wheaton v. Peters

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Court Documents
Dissenting Opinions
Thompson
Baldwin


United States Supreme Court

33 U.S. 591

HENRY WHEATON AND ROBERT DONALDSON  v.  RICHARD PETERS AND JOHN GRIGG

APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania


[p593] The case as stated in the opinion of the court was as follows:

"The complainants in their bill state, that Henry Wheaton is the author of twelve books or volumes, of the reports of cases argued and adjudged in the supreme court of the United States, and commonly known as Wheaton's Reports; which contain a connected and complete series of the decisions of said court, from the year 1816 until the year 1827. That before the first volume was published, the said Wheaton sold and transferred his copyright in the said volume to Matthew Carey of Philadelphia; who, before the publication, deposited a printed copy of the title page of the volume in the clerk's office of the district court of the eastern district of Pennsylvania, where he [p594] resided. That the same was recorded by the said clerk according to law, and that a copy of the said record was caused by said Carey to be inserted at full length in the page immediately following the title of said book. And the complainants further state, that they have been informed and believe, that all things which are necessary and requisite to be done in and by the provisions of the acts of congress of the United States, passed the 31st day of May 1790 and the 29th day of April 1802, for the purpose of securing to authors and proprietors the copyrights of books, and for other purposes, in order to entitle the said Carey to the benefit of the said acts; have been done.
"It is further stated, that said Carey afterwards conveyed the copyright in the said volume to Matthew Carey, Henry C. Carey and Isaac Lea, trading under the firm of Matthew Carey and Sons; and that said firm, in the year 1821, transferred the said copyright to the complainant, Robert Donaldson. That this purchase was made by an arrangement with the said Henry Wheaton, with the expectation of a renewal of the right of the said Henry Wheaton under the provisions of the said acts of congress; of which renewal he, the said Robert Donaldson, was to have the benefit, until the first and second editions of the said volume which he, the said Donaldson, was to publish, should be sold. That at the time the purchase was made from Carey and Sons, a purchase was also made of the residue of the first edition of the first volume, which they had on hand; and in the year 1827 he published another edition of said volume, a part of which still remains unsold.
"The bill further states, that for the purpose of continuing to the said Henry Wheaton the exclusive right, under the provisions of the said acts of congress, to the copy of the said volume for the further term of fourteen years, after the expiration of the term of fourteen years from the recording of the title of the said volume in the clerk's office as aforesaid; the said Robert Donaldson, as the agent of Wheaton, within six months before the expiration of the said first term of fourteen years, deposited a printed copy of the title of the said volume in the clerk's office of the district court of the southern district of New York, where the said Wheaton then resided; and caused the said title to be a second time recorded in the said clerk's office; and also caused a copy of the said record to be a second time published [p595] in a newspaper printed in the said city of New York, for the space of four weeks, and delivered a copy of the said book to the secretary of state of the United States; and that all things were done agreeably to the provision of the said act of congress of May 31st, 1790, and within six months before the expiration of the said term of fourteen years.
"The same allegations are made as to all the other volumes which have been published; that the entry was made in the clerk's office and notice given by publication in a newspaper, before the publication of each volume; and that a copy of each volume was deposited in the department of state.
"The complainants charge, that the defendants have lately published and sold, or caused to be sold, a volume called Condensed Reports of Cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, containing the whole series of the decisions of the court from its organization to the commencement of Peters's Reports at January term 1827. That this volume contains, without any material abbreviation or alteration, all the reports of cases in the said first volume of Wheaton's Reports, and that the publication and sale thereof is a direct violation of the complainants' rights, and an injunction, &c. is prayed.

The defendants in their answer deny that their publication was an infringement of the complainants' copyyright, if any they had; and further deny that they had any such right, they not having complied with all the requisites to the vesting of such right under the acts of congress."

The bill of the complainants was dismissed by the decree of the circuit court; and they appealed to this court.[*]

The case was argued by Mr Paine and Mr Webster, for the appellants; and by Mr Ingersoll, by a printed argument, and Mr Sergeant, for the defendants.


This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the circuit court of the United States for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, and was argued by counsel; on consideration whereof, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed by this court, that the judgment and decree of the said circuit court, in this cause be, and the same is hereby reversed, and that this cause be, and the same is hereby remanded to the said circuit court, with directions to that court, to order an issue of facts to be examined and tried by a jury, at the bar of said court, upon this point, whether the said Wheaton, as author, or any other person as proprietor, had complied with the requisites prescribed by the third and fourth sections of the said act of congress, passed the 31st day of May 1790, in regard to the volumes of Wheaton's Reports, in the said bill mentioned, or in regard to one or more of them, in the following particulars, viz. whether the said Wheaton or proprietor did, within two months from the date of the recording thereof in the clerk's office of the district court, cause a copy of the said record to be published in one or more of the newspapers printed in the resident states, for four weeks; and whether the [p699] said Wheaton or the proprietor, after the publishing thereof, did deliver or cause to be delivered to the secretary of state of the United States, a copy of the same, to be preserved in his office, according to the provisions of the said third and fourth sections of the said act, and that such further proceedings be had therein, as to law and justice may appertain, and in conformity to the opinion of this court.

Footnotes[edit]

*^  The case was decided in the circuit court by Judge HOPKINSON, Mr Justice BALDWIN having been absent on the argument and decision thereof. The opinion of Judge Hopkinson is inserted in the Appendix, No. II.