Copyright Case Files from the Archives, Vol. 3: A Few More Cases and a Register of Trademarks from 1874-1879

As the New Year approaches, it seems appropriate to share the remainder of the case files digitized by The Boston Public Library, The National Archives – Boston, and the Internet Archive.  In addition to the three case files, there is a somewhat confusing register of trademarks and labels created by the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts from 1874-1879.  Also, I want to wish all my readers a Happy New Year, and to expect lots more on this blog in 2017, including plenty more on common-law copyright for sound recordings, pre-1870 copyright record information, and generally more intellectual property history than you might think possible.

The case files are:

  • Arthur S. Sullivan el al. v. Louis P. Goulland et al (Unreported, C.C.D.MA. 1879).  Case File.  This is a case about piracy in the operetta The Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert & Sullivan – a companion to the Sullivan v. White case discussed in the previous post on these files.  I’ve written about this case in my article on the origins of the public performance right in music, and I’m excited to have full-color scans of the case file online.  Included in the file are multiple examples of illicit scores of the songs from The Pirates of Penzance.
  • Greene v. Bishop, 10 F. Cas. 1128 (C.C.D. Mass. 1858).  Case File.  The opinion by Justice Clifford is famous for being one of the first after Folsom v. Marsh (also in the previous post) to discuss fair use, along with the copyrightability of abridgements.  The case file tips the scales at 733 pages, and includes substantial evidentiary documents, including lengthy answers to interrogatories.
  • Lawrence v. Dana, 15 F. Cas. 26 (C.C.D. Mass. 1869).  Case File.  Another early fair use case from MA, another giant case file at 762 pages.  This case concerns whether the copying of the notes on cases from Henry Wheaton’s treatise on international law was fair use.1  The Court’s opinion references the evidence in the case file frequently and excerpts it as well, so it is helpful to see the entire case file.  The file is also a bit more readable than the case file in Greene v. Bishop, as parts of it are typeset instead of being entirely handwritten.

In addition to the case files, there is a register of trademarks and product labels registered for copyright with the District Court in Boston from 1874-1879.  I’m not entirely sure why this volume exists.  Under the 1870 Trademark Act registration was done at the Patent Office, and the 1874 Print and Label Act moved copyright registration for product labels and advertising prints was moved to the Patent Office as well.  Copyright registration had of course been in the District Courts until 1870, but the 1870 Copyright Act moved it to the Library of Congress, and no measure moved any part of it back to the District Courts since.  Whatever the case, the record book is here, and I welcome comments or suggestions as to why it exists – there is no record of such a book existing in any other District Court.2  There are some fascinating product labels from the 1870s pasted into the record book.

  1. This is the same Wheaton who was the Supreme Court Reporter and plaintiff in Wheaton v. Peters.
  2. Ignore the “Minute Book in Bankruptcy” title on the cover – I assume they just repurposed a blank minute book

Leave a Reply