Stowe v. Thomas, Pennsylvania (1853)

Source: The University of Texas Tarlton Law Library Stack 216: Stowe v. Thomas, 23 F. Cas. 201 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1853).

Stowe v. Thomas, Pennsylvania (1853), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Full title:
Stowe v. Thomas, 23 F. Cas. 201 (C.C.E.D.Pa. 1853)

Full title original language:

A case decided by Justice Robert Grier. The case involved a claim of copyright infringement by Harriet Beecher Stowe against a publisher of an unauthorized German translation of her book 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. The court decided that a translation was not a copy of the original and therefore did not infringe copyright. The decision epitomized the traditional approach that conceptualized copyright protection in terms of the limited right to print copies. From this approach followed a narrow understanding of the scope of copyright protection and of the entitlements it included. When Stowe v. Thomas was decided, this traditional approach was in decline. It was superseded by a new understanding of copyright as the protection of an intellectual work, irrespective of the exact form or medium of reproduction. The transition was reflected in the fact that nineteenth century copyright commentators harshly criticized the Stowe v. Thomas decision and in the explicit legislative addition of the translation entitlement to copyright protection in 1870. The commentary discusses the case, the related doctrinal and conceptual changes in copyright law, and some of the economic and social context of these changes.

1 Commentary:

  • Kaplan, Benjamin. An Unhurried View of Copyright. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

  • ___. American Women Authors and Literary Property, 1822-1869. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

  • Homestead, Melissa J. 'When I can Read my Title Clear': Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Stowe v. Thomas Copyright Infringement Case.' 27 Prospects 201 (2002).

Related documents in this database:
1845: Court of Appeal on translations
1853: Court of Cassation on translations
1852: Copyright and Natural Right
1853: Stowe v. Thomas, Complainant's Bill
1853: Stowe v. Thomas, Defendant's Answer
1853: Affidavit of Harriet Beecher Stowe
1853: 'Uncle Tom' at Law

Author: N/A

Publisher: N/A

Year: 1853

Location: Pennsylvania

Language: English

Source: The University of Texas Tarlton Law Library Stack 216: Stowe v. Thomas, 23 F. Cas. 201 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1853).

Persons referred to:
Aston, Richard
Bacon, Francis
Bayard, Jean-François Alfred
Blanc, Etienne
Brewster, Benjamin Harris
Burnet, Dr. Thomas
Burns, Robert
Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de
Copley, John Singleton, 1st Baron Lyndhurst
Curtis, George Ticknor
Delalain, Jules
Donizetti, Gaetano
Euler, Leonhard
Godson, Richard
Goepp, Charles
Grier, Robert Cooper
Hutton, Hugo Rudolph
Lumley, Benjamin
Mansfield, William Murray, 1st Earl
Merlin, Philippe-Antoine
Pardessus, Jean-Marie
Parker, Thomas
Perkins, Samuel C.
Perkins, Samuel H.
Renouard, Augustin-Charles
Saint-Georges, Jules-Henri Vernoy de
Stowe, Calvin Ellis
Stowe, Harriet Elizabeth, née Beecher
Thomas, F. W.
Wallace, John William
Webster, Daniel
Webster, Noah
Willes, Edward

Places referred to:
Trenton, New Jersey

Cases referred to:
Bayard & Donizetti's heirs v. Lumley (1850-52)
Burnet v. Chetwood (1721) 2 Mer. 441
D'Almaine v. Boosey (1835) 1 Y. & C. 288
Goodyear v. Day, New Jersey Distr. Ct (1852)
Jollie v. Jacques, New York Distr. Ct (1850)
Millar v. Taylor (1769) 4 Burr. 2303
Rosa v. Girardin, Rouen Court of Appeal (1845)
Stowe v. Thomas (1853)
Wyatt v. Barnard (1814) 3 Ves. & B. 78

Institutions referred to:
Court of Appeal (Rouen)
Opéra-Comique, Paris
Pennsylvania District Court
Théâtre-Italien, Paris

Belgian copyright legislation (1814, 1817)
French Copyright Act 1793
Prussian Copyright Act 1837
Prussian Statute Book 1794 (ALR)
Russian Council of State decree (1830), on the duration of copyright
Statute of Anne, 1710, 8 Ann. c. 19
U.S. Copyright Act 1831, 21st Cong., 2d Sess., 4 Stat. 436
U.S. Industrial Designs Protection Act 1842, 5 Stat. 543

author/publisher relations
authors' remuneration
authorship, theory of
copying, concept of
property theory, authors' property
translation, right of
translations, of contemporary works

Responsible editor: Oren Bracha

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