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Stowe v. Thomas - 23 F. Cas. 201

Rule:

In questions of infringement of copyright, the inquiry is not, whether the defendant has used the thoughts, conceptions, information or discoveries promulgated by the original, but whether his composition may be considered a new work, requiring invention, learning and judgment, or only a mere transcript of the whole or parts of the original, with merely colorable variations. A bona fide abridgment of a book is not an infringement of copyright.

Facts:

Plaintiff author brought an action for copyright infringement against defendant translator for alleged misappropriation of her published book. The court dismissed, holding that by the publication of her book, the creations of the genius and imagination of the author had become public property, and her conceptions and inventions could be used and abused by imitators, playwrights, and translators. The author only had a remaining right in the copyright of her book; the exclusive right to print, reprint, and vend it. Plaintiff appealed.

Issue:

Is a book translation covered by copyright infringement?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court held that the only infringers to the author's rights, or pirates of her property, were those who were guilty of printing, publishing, importing, or vending without her license, copies of her book. A translation could not be correctly called a copy of her book.

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