Commentary on:
Kramer: Rights of Writers and Publishers (1827)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: d_1827b


Wilhelm August Kramer, The Rights of Writers and Publishers (Heidelberg, 1827)

Friedemann Kawohl

School of Finance & Law, Bournemouth University, UK


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Wilhelm August Kramer, The Rights of Writers and Publishers (Heidelberg, 1827), in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. References


1. Full title

Wilhelm August Kramer, The Rights of Writers and Publishers (Heidelberg, 1827)


2. Abstract

Wilhelm August Kramer (1798 - after 1846) was matriculated as a law student at Heidelberg University on 22 October, 1825.[1] Kramer assumes an author's "property"[2] in the "writing" (Schrift),[3] i.e. "an utterance, which, delimited by specific words and permanently represented by visible characters, contains a complete thought".[4] Even a single sentence is an object of copyright,[5] and similarly in the case of a translation. As a result of this focus on the "writing", Kramer succeeds in including music by means of an analogy between musical notes and written characters.[6] As a consequence of his strict property approach, Kramer in principle acknowledges no termination of intellectual property, if not specified by the government. In Kramer's system the author has a strong position vis-à-vis the publisher, who is "obliged to distribute the writing only within the circle which the author has indicated to him"[7] and is not authorised to change the work as provided in the manuscript.[8] Although no other juridical book or article was published under his name, Kramer's book on copyright was quite important[9] throughout the 1830s.


5. References


Books and articles [in alphabetical order]

Gieseke, L., Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht. Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995)

Vogel, M., "Deutsche Urheber- und Verlagsrechtsgeschichte zwischen 1450 und 1850", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 29 (1978): 1-180

Wadle, E., Geistiges Eigentum (Weinheim: VCH, 1996)

[1] Gustav Toepke, Die Matrikel der Universität Heidelberg Vol. V. (1807-1846) (Heidelberg, 1904) 301. According to the matriculation register, Kramer was 25 years old. Thus he must have been born between 22 October, 1799, and 21 October, 1800. Ludwig Gieseke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht. Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995), 217, gives a lifetime of (1798-1861) with no further reference. The Staatsbibliothek Hamburg, where some letters of Kramer are held, gives the birthday as 14 August, 1798, in Hamburg and the last reference to his being alive in 1846. It is possible that Wilhelm August Kramer, the author of Lucas Andreas Staudinger: sein Leben und Wirken (Hamburg: Nestler & Melle, 1845) is one and the same person as our jurist. According to the Heidelberg matriculation register, he was born in Hamburg and brought up in the Lutheran faith; he had studied at the University of Bonn before coming to Heidelberg, and his father was a "Partikulierer",  i.e. a skipper in the inland river-traffic fleet with his own boat. The information was kindly provided by Dagmar Drüll-Zimmermann of Heidelberger Gelehrtenlexikon. The book is dedicated to three Hamburg citizens, among them the Senators Johann Ludewig Dammert (1788-1855) and Nicolaus Binder (1785-1865).

[2] p. 55 refers to a "quasi dominium". Unlike moveable things there is, however, no possession in intellectual goods. On the important difference of property and possession, see the commentary for d_1832.

[3] p. 54 with reference to Fichte (d_1793).

[4] "eine Aeusserung, welche, durch bestimmte Worte abgegränzt, und durch sichtliche Zeichen bleibend dargestellt, einen vollständigen Gedanken enthält."( p. 53).

[5] Kramer, the son a skipper, explains the parallel between collections of works of copyright and physical property in the following terms: "Property in physical things appertains, strictly speaking, to every single barley-corn. It is possible to imagine situations in which the proprietor might be interested in asserting his right to a particular corn of cereal... In the end, it should be said, a whole ship's cargo of barley consists of individual corns, and it is to these, not to the cargo, that the right of ownership applies. " ["Das Eigenthum an körperlichen Dingen besteht genau genommen an jedem einzelnen Gerstenkorne. Es lassen sich Fälle denken, wo der Eigenthümer ein Interesse hat, sein Recht auf ein bestimmtes Gerstenkorn geltend zu machen ... Am Ende besteht übrigens eine ganze Schiffsladung Gerste aus einzelnen Körnern, und an diesen, nicht an der Schiffsladung, ist das Eigenthumsrecht zuständig"] (p.54).

[6]  "Musical works display such a strong similarity to normal written works, that one might well refer to them as a class of writings. The only difference is that instead of representing words through letters, they represent sounds through notes, which, just as a spoken address contains thoughts, express ideas... Therefore, making selections from an orchestral score in order to draw up a piano-score, and composing variations on another's theme, are both instances of legitimate use [of an original work]; but the inclusion of someone else's musical work in one's own is only to be allowed with certain restrictions; and adding an accompaniment to another's song is to be regarded as equivalent to a translation." ["Musikalische Werke haben mit den gewöhnlichen Schriften eine so große Ähnlichkeit, daß man sie eine Art von Schriften nennen könnte. Der einzige Unterschied besteht darin, daß sie statt durch Buchstaben Worte, durch Noten Töne darstellen, welche, so wie eine Rede Gedanken enthält, Ideen ausdrücken....Daher ist das Excerpiren einer Partitur zu einem Klavierauszuge, und die Variation eines fremden Thema's ein rechtmäßiger Gebrauch; die Uebertragung eines fremden Tonstücks aber in ein eignes Werk nur unter Beschränkungen zu gestatten, und die Hinzufügung einer Begleitung zu einer fremden Weise wie eine Uebersetzung zu betrachten"] (p. 112).

[7] "verpflichtet, die Schrift nur innerhalb des Kreises zu verbreiten, den ihm der Eigentümer vorschrieb" (p. 152). Cf. Martin Vogel "Deutsches Urheber- und Verlagsrechtsgeschichte", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 19, nr 1 (1978), 1-180.

[8] Kramer (p. 151).

[9] In the Bibliopolisches Jahrbuch (Leipzig: Weber, 1836), 19, a handbook for the publishing industry, Kramer's book of 1827 is referred to as one of "the two most recent and informative works on the subject" ["zwei der neuesten und inhaltsreichsten Schriften über diesen Gegenstand"]. Elmar Wadle has pointed out references to Kramer's book in early drafts and notes for the Prussian Copyright Act of 1837, Elmar Wadle, Geistiges Eigentum (Weinheim: VCH 1996), 1: 183.

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