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Encyclopedia > Wheaton v. Peters

Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834), was the United States Supreme Court ruling on copyright, its first on the subject, in which it upheld the power of Congress to make a grant of copyright protection subject to conditions and rejected the doctrine of a common law copyright. This was also Chief Justice John Marshall's last major case. 1834 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States... Copyright symbol. ... Common law copyright is the legal doctrine that contends that copyright is a natural right and creators have the same inherent right to it as they would tangible property. ... In many countries, especially common law countries such as Canada and the United States the Chief Justice is the name for the presiding officer on a senior court such as the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Supreme Court of New Zealand, the Supreme Court of... John Marshall (September 24, 1755–July 6, 1835) was a highly influential American statesman, lawyer, legislator and soldier who served as a Virginia Delegate, U.S. Representative, special emissary to France, Secretary of State and, most significantly, as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. ...

Contents


Facts

The case arose out of the printing of the Supreme Court's own opinions. Henry Wheaton, the third reporter of decisions, had compiled with great care the opinions of the Court, complete with annotations and summaries of the arguments in Court, useful material but which made the volumes of his reports costly and out of the reach of most lawyers. His successor as reporter, Richard Peters, in addition to publishing the current volumes of reports, had gone over his predecessor's work, eliminating the arguments and other extraneous material, and publishing an abridged edition in which he reduced twenty-four volumes into six. While the reporter did receive a $1,000 per year salary from the government, it did not cover the full expenses of preparing the reports and the reporters relied on the sale of the books to recoup their costs. By creating more affordable volumes, Peters devastated the market for Wheaton's more expensive books. Henry Wheaton (November 27, 1785 - March 11, 1848), American lawyer and diplomat, was born at Providence, Rhode Island. ... Seal of the Supreme Court The Reporter of Decisions of the United States Supreme Court is the official charged with editing and publishing the Courts decisions both when announced and in the bound volumes of the United States Reports. ... Richard Peters, Jr. ...


Wheaton sued in Pennsylvania and lost in the circuit court — Wheaton v. Peters, 29 Fed. Cases 862 (No. 17,486) (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1832). The judge, Joseph Hopkinson, ruled that copyright is purely the creation of statute and one must comply with the requirements of registering a copyright, putting a notice in the work covered, etc., in order to receive protection. Judge Hopkinson also ruled that there was no federal common law, one must look to the states and, even then, the states did not necessarily adopt the entire English common law — assuming there was a common law copyright. State nickname: The Keystone State Official languages None Capital Harrisburg Largest city Philadelphia Governor Ed Rendell (D) Senators Arlen Specter (R) Rick Santorum (R) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 33rd 119,283 km² 2. ... Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. ... 1832 was a leap year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... Common law copyright is the legal doctrine that contends that copyright is a natural right and creators have the same inherent right to it as they would tangible property. ...


Wheaton then appealed the case to the Supreme Court.


Result

John McLean, who himself had publishing experience as the founder of an Ohio newspaper, wrote the opinion of the Court. In it, he declared that while the common law undoubtedly protected the right to one's unpublished writings — e.g. a diary, personal letters — "this is a very different right from that which asserts a perpetual and exclusive property in the future publication of the work, after the author shall have published it to the world." (33 U.S. 591 at 658) McLean declared there was no common law right: "Congress, then, by this act, instead of sanctioning an existing right, as contended, created it." (33 U.S. 591 at 660-61) McLean also rejected Wheaton's contention that requiring registration and the other conditions of the law were improper. Congress was giving Wheaton and other creators a special protection and it was not unreasonable to expect them to observe the formalities, the Court ruled. John McLean (March 11, 1785 – April 4, 1861) was an American jurist and politician who served in the United States Congress, as U.S. Postmaster General, and as a justice on the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts. ... State nickname: The Buckeye State Official languages None Capital Columbus Largest city Columbus Governor Bob Taft (R) Senators Mike DeWine (R) George V. Voinovich (R) Area  - Total  - % water Ranked 34th 116,096 km² 8. ... Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. ... Court citation is a standard system used in common law countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. ...


This precedent corresponded to the English decision in Donaldson v. Beckett, which was cited in the Court's opinion. Donaldson v. ...


References

  • Paul Goldstein. Copyright's Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.
  • Lyman Ray Patterson. Copyright in Historical Perspective. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968.
  • Lyman Ray Patterson and Stanley W. Lindberg. The Nature of Copyright: A Law of Users' Rights. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1991
  • Jean Edward Smith. John Marshall: Definer Of A Nation. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1996.

Jean Edward Smith is an accomplished educator and biographer having authored such works as Grant, John Marshall: Definer of a Nation, and Presently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University. ...

See also

Copyright symbol. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... The following is a list of cases that deal with issues of concern to copyright in various jurisdictions. ... This is a chronological list of notable cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. ...

External links

  • Full text of the decision & case resources from Justia & Northwestern-Oyez
  • Text of the opinion in Wheaton v. Peters
  • Text of the opinion in West Publishing v. Mead Data Central, which discusses Wheaton v. Peters

 
 

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