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U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, is the great repository of the powers of Congress, and by the eighth clause of that section Congress is authorized to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for limited times to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
Defendant lithographic company brought a writ of error to the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York. On the lithographic company's writ of error, the United States Supreme Court reviewed the record, which indicated that the photographer, under an agreement with the subject, was the author, inventor, designer, and proprietor of a photograph to which he had "signed" his name, using only the initial letter of his given name and his surname. After a bench trial, the district court found for plaintiff photographer in an action under U.S. Rev. Stat. §§ 4952, 4965, for an infringement of a copyright in a photograph.
Was the company liable for infringement of a copyright in the photograph?
The Court held that that the words used sufficiently gave notice of the copyright. The company was liable under U.S. Rev. Stat. §§ 4952, 4965, and those sections were valid as they related to photographs. The Court noted that it was much more important that, when the photographer sued for a violation of his copyright, the existence of the facts of originality, intellectual production, thought, and conception on the part of the photographer should be proved, as the photographer proved, than in the case of a patent right. The findings showed the photograph to be an original work of art, the product of intellectual invention, of which the photographer was the author, and belonging to a class of inventions for which the Constitution intended that Congress should secure to the photographer the exclusive right to use, publish, and sell.