COPYRIGHT. The exclusive privilege, secured according to certain legal forms, of printing, publishing, and vending copies of writings or drawings.
The intellectual productions to which the law extends protection are of three classes. First, writings or drawings capable of being multiplied by the arts of printing or engraving. Second, de signs of form or configuration capable of being re produced upon the surface or in the shape of bodies. Third, inventions in what are called the useful arts. To the first class belong hooks, maps, charts, music, prints, and engravings; to the second class belong statuary, bas-reliefs, designs for ornamenting any snrfaee, and oonfigurations of bodies; the third class comprehends machinery, tools, manufactures, compositions of matter, and processes or methods in the arts. According to the practice of legisla tion in England and America, the term copyright is confined to the exclusive right secured to the author or proprietor of a writing or drawing, which may be multiplied by the arts of printing in any of its brunches. Property in the other classes of intel lectual objects is usually secured by letters-patent, and the interest is called a patent-right. But the distinction is arbitrary and conventional.
The foundation of all rights of this description is the natural dominion which every one has over his own ideas, the enjoyment of which, although they are embodied in visihle forms or characters, he may, if he chooses, confine to himself or impart to others. But, as it would be impracticable in civil society to prevent others from copying such characters or forms without the intervention of positive law, and as such intervention is highly ex pedient, because it tends to the increase of human culture, knowledge, and convenience, it has been the practice of all civilized nations in modern times to secure and regulate the otherwise insecure and imperfect right which, according to the principles of natural justice, belongs to the author of new ideas.
This has been done by securing an exclusive right of multiplying copies for a limited period, as far as the municipal law of the particular country extends. But, inasmuch as the original right, founded in the principles of natural justice, is of an imperfect cha racter, and requires, in order to be valuable, the intervention of municipal law, the law of nations has not taken notice of it as it has of some other rights of property ; and therefore all copyright is the result of some municipal regulation, and exists only in the limits of the country by whose legisla tion it is established. The international copyright which is established in consequence of a conven tion between any two countries is not an exception to this principle; because the municipal authority of each nation making such convention either speaks directly to its own subjects through the treaty itself, or is exerted in its own limits by some enactment made in pursuance of the international engagement.
It was formerly doubtful in England whether copyright, as applied to books, existed at common law, and whether the first statute (8 Anne, c. 19) which undertook to regulate this species of incor poreal property had taken away the perpetuity which must have existed at common law if that law recognized any right whatever.
The better opinion seems to be that the common law of England, before the statute of Anne, was supposed to admit the exclusive right of an author to multiply copies of his work by printing, and also his capacity to assign that right; for injunc tions were granted in equity to protect it. See, on this subject, 4 Burr. 2303, 2408; 2 Brown, Parl. Cas. 145; 1 W. Blackst. 301; 3 Swanst. Ch. 673; 2 Ed. Ch. 327; 4 Hou. L. 815 ; 4 Exch. 145. But it has long been settled that, whatever the common law right may have been before the statute, it was taken away by the statute, and that copyright exists only by force of some statutory provision. Id. ; 8 Pet. 591; 17 How. 454.