215 U.S. 182 (1909), 22, Caliga v. Inter Ocean Newspaper Company

Docket Nº:No. 22
Citation:215 U.S. 182, 30 S.Ct. 38, 54 L.Ed. 150
Party Name:Caliga v. Inter Ocean Newspaper Company
Case Date:November 29, 1909
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 182

215 U.S. 182 (1909)

30 S.Ct. 38, 54 L.Ed. 150



Inter Ocean Newspaper Company

No. 22

United States Supreme Court

November 29, 1909

Argued November 5, 1909




Statutory copyright is not to be confounded with the exclusive property of the author in his manuscript at common law.

In enacting the copyright statute, Congress did not sanction an existing right, but created a new one dependent on compliance with the statute. Under existing copyright law of the United States, there is no provision for filing amendments to the first application, and, the matter being wholly subject to statutory regulation, copyright on a second application cannot be sustained. The statutory limit of copyright cannot be extended by new applications.

157 F. 186 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 186

DAY, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DAY delivered the opinion of the Court.

The plaintiff in error, also plaintiff below, brought an action in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois to recover damages under § 4965 of the Revised Statutes of the United States because of the publication by the defendant of more than one thousand copies of a newspaper containing a picture of a painting, copyrighted by the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged that he had in all respects complied with the Revised Statutes of the United States by causing to be deposited, on or about the fifth day of November, 1901, a photograph and a description of the painting, for the purpose of having it copyrighted, which deposit was before

Page 187

publication of the same in the United States or in any foreign country. By reason of the premises and the compliance with the statutes of the United States, the plaintiff claimed to be entitled to a copyright for the painting for the term of twenty-eight years from and after the recording of the title thereof by the Librarian of Congress on November 7, 1901.

There were other allegations, and proofs tending to show a publication of a copy of the photograph in the newspaper of the defendant company. In the course of the trial, it appeared that the plaintiff had deposited a description and photograph of the same painting with the Librarian of Congress on October 7, 1901, for the purpose of securing a copyright. The trial court charged the jury, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff had brought his suit upon the wrong copyright, and therefore directed a verdict in favor of the defendant. Upon writ of error, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed this judgment. 157 F. 186. The case is now here for review.

The photographs filed upon the two applications for a copyright are identical. Nor is any substantial change in the painting shown; the copyrights undertaken to be secured were therefore upon the same painting. The difference is that, in the copyright sued upon, that of November 7, 1901, the title and description are,

The Guardian Angel. Portrait of a young girl sitting, hair arranged smoothly over the ears, hair parted in the middle. Her guardian angel stands behind her, one hand resting on her left shoulder, the other on her right arm.

The description accompanying the application for the copyright of October 7, 1901, is, "Maidenhood. A Young Girl seated beside a window; an Angel stands behind her."

The question in this case is: is the second attempt to copyright valid and effectual, or was the court right in charging in substance that it was void and of no effect?

We have had such recent and frequent occasions...

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