'A Curious Chapter in the History of Judicature': Wheaton V. Peters and the Rest of the Story (of Copyright in the New Republic)

68 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2005

See all articles by Craig Joyce

Craig Joyce

University of Houston Law Center - Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law

Abstract

This article traces the history of copyright law in the United States, as received from England and further developed in America, through the first great U.S. copyright decision, Wheaton v. Peters, in 1834. Told in dramatic form appropriate to the subject itself, the article features a host of famous players, including Noah Webster of spelling book and dictionary fame, Supreme Court Justices John Marshall and Joseph Story, and the Court's early Reporters of Decisions - Alexander Dallas, William Cranch, Henry Wheaton, and Richard Peters, Jr. - who preserved for posterity the opinions of the Nation's Court. The article also recounts the events accompanying Wheaton, including a heated dispute on the bench itself on the day of decision, and provides a detailed analysis of the opinions in the case and the doctrines they explore (statutory right vs. natural law, the importance of statutory formalities, and copyright ownership for judicial reports). A shorter version of the article will appear in INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY STORIES (ed. Jane C. Ginsburg & Rochelle Cooper Dreyfuss, forthcoming 2005).

Keywords: Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court, Judicial Reports, United States Reports, Nominate Reporters, Noah Webster, Alexander Dallas, William Cranch, Henry Wheaton, Richard Peters, Jr., Copyright Clause, Wheaton v. Peters

Suggested Citation

Joyce, Craig, 'A Curious Chapter in the History of Judicature': Wheaton V. Peters and the Rest of the Story (of Copyright in the New Republic). Houston Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 325, 2005; University of Houston Law Center No. 2005-A-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=801226

Craig Joyce (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center - Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law ( email )

100 Law Center
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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