Page images

only the author, inventor, or designer, but also the proprietor of any book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition, &c. In other words, while a foreign author is himself excluded from the benefits of the statute, he would have the capacity of conferring a valid title upon his assignee, provided the latter be a citizen. This construction, however, is defeated, in part at least, by a following section (§ 103), which provides,

Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prohibit the printing, publishing, importation, or sale of any book, map, chart, dramatic or musical composition, print, cut, engraving, or photograph, written, composed, or made by any person not a citizen of the United States, nor resident therein."

The effect of this language is clearly to disqualify a foreign . author, or any one deriving title from a foreign author, from acquiring in this country copyright in the works mentioned ; for a general license is given to any one to print, publish, import, or sell, without molestation, those articles when purchased from a foreign author. But it will be noticed that this license is not given in case of “a painting, drawing, chromo, statue, statuary, and models or designs intended to be perfected as works of the fine arts," which are included in the section first quoted. Whether this omission is intentional or otherwise cannot be determined from the act; but the only sound interpretation would seem to be, that if a citizen or resident of the United States became the proprietor of any of this class of articles from a foreigner, and took the requisite steps to secure copyright therein, there is nothing in the act to destroy the validity of his title.

Nor is there any thing in the last-quoted section touching the right of performing or representing a dramatic composition. As has been seen, the section first quoted gives to any citizen of the United States, or resident therein, who has purchased a dramatic composition from a foreigner, two privileges: first, the sole liberty of selling or publishing it; and, second, “ the exclusive right of publicly performing* or representing it, or causing it to be performed or represented by others." The first of these privileges is taken away by the subsequent section, which expressly allows the unrestricted printing, publishing, importation, or selling of any dramatic composition which is the work of a foreign author: but this section is silent concerning the second privilege granted ; namely, the sole liberty of publicly performing or representing a

dramatic composition, or causing it to be performed or represented by others.

The question then arises, what, under the act, are the rights of a citizen in regard to the representation of a drama which he has purchased from a foreigner ? Any one may import or sell printed copies. Congress gives that privilege to the public. But does this publication and circulation make the composition publici juris, so as to deprive the purchaser of his exclusive right to its public representation ? Under the acts of 1856 and 1831 the owner of a copyrighted drama might have the double right, first, of its exclusive publication, and, second, of its public representation.1 These rights were distinct and independent of each other, and the infringement of one was not in itself an infringement of the other. They were conferred by different statutes at different times. They did not exist in the assignee of a foreigner, because the sole liberty of public representation was given by the act of 1856 only in cases where copyright was secured by the statute of 1831, under which copyright would not vest in a foreigner or his assignee. Both of these statutes, however, were repealed by that of 1870. Under this act, in the case of a dramatic composition composed by a foreigner, the exclusive right of publishing is taken from the proprietor and vested in the public at large. Such a publication would, doubtless, destroy the common-law right of exclusive representation belonging to the owner of a manuscript; and it may be contended with some force that it also destroys the statutory right. Without presenting a technical argument, which would be out of place in these pages, it may be stated that, in the absence of judicial light upon this point, it remains an interesting question whether a sound construction of the act would give to a citizen the exclusive right of representing a printed drama which he has purchased from a foreign author, notwithstanding the printed copy of the same work may be in general circulation. Of course, in the case of a manuscript production, the author or his assignee, whether a citizen or foreigner, has the common-law right to its exclusive public representation.

The question has its importance in the fact that, if this construction is the proper one, it opens the gates for the first time,

i Daly v. Palmer (1868), 6 Bl. 256.
2 Keene v. Wheatleigh (1860), 9 Am. Law Reg. 33.

however little, to a foreign author; and its practical importance is seen, when it is considered how extensively the American stage depends upon foreign authors for the instruction and amusement nightly given to the public.

It will now be seen that the copyright laws of England possess a comprehensive liberality not found in those of the United States. In legislating “ for the encouragement of learning,” parliament has made no distinction between native and foreign authors; but, in the opinion of the most learned statesmen, has invited men of learning of every tongue to send their productions to the United Kingdom for first publication, – aiming to make England the Mecca of authors, the centre of learning, of the arts and sciences and culture. The most learned judges of the realm, from Lord Mansfield down to Lord Chancellor Cairns, have labored to give this judicial interpretation to the statutes, — to make this the law of the realm. Ever since the decision of the House of Lords in 1854, a foreign author may acquire the full benefit of the statute by his presence within the British dominions, while even the judgment making this bodily presence necessary has been shaken to the foundation.

The American Congress, on the other hand, has put into every copyright statute passed since the formation of the government an unmistakable veto against every author who is not a citizen or a resident, whether he offers the beautiful thoughts of Tennyson, or the still more beautiful science of Tyndall; and the courts of the United States have not been able to give these stern statutes a more liberal construction.

If some hero will induce Congress to pass a law inviting authors, composers, and artists, of every nation under the sun to send their treasures of learning, science, and art to our shores where they shall be protected, he will deserve a monument more durable than brass. Then will the United States experience an intellectual growth without parallel, and will soon lead all the nations in learning. But better still will be that international copyright law for which so many eminent citizens in both hemispheres have pleaded, and which will make all countries one for noble men who labor, in whatever vineyard, for the advancement of knowledge and truth.

[blocks in formation]


OUR criminal records have recently received an addition of a more than usually interesting nature. The story is a double one, of fraud in the earlier stage, and murder in the later, unique in outline, and full of ingenuity in the details. It is that of a combination entered into for the purpose of swindling certain life insurance companies out of large sums, by a scheme so clever and original, and yet so simple, that persons not directly interested in the prosperity of such corporations may be tempted to say that it deserved, as it very nearly attained, success. But the little step by which, in course of time, the conspirators appeared likely to fail of achieving their end, led one of them to murder his fellow, by which ill-advised act a new series of elaborations and complications being superinduced, the whole proved too much to be securely kept out of sight. Scraps and tokens upon the surface at intervals gave a sufficient clew to those who were resolved to go deeper, and finally the whole course of crime was laid bare. The thorough and patient detective skill which accomplished this difficult feat might have excited the envy even of French police. But the credit belonged not so much to any police as to the counsel and agents employed by the insurance companies upon their own account.

On May 21, 1868, Winfield Scott Goss took out a policy of insurance upon his life, for the sum of $5,000, in the New York Mutual Life Insurance Company, payable to Eliza Waters Goss, his wife. Whether he already contemplated any scheme of fraud, or whether his act was innocent in intent as it was in appearance, does not appear. Probably, however, there was no guilty design in his mind at this time; or, if so, it must have been very indefinite in outline, for during three years he paid his premiums with reasonable punctuality, and evinced no symptoms fitted to arouse suspicion. But in May, 1871, he seemed to be seized with a sudden mania for insuring his life. On the twenty-sixth day of that month he took out a second policy for $5,000, in the Continental Life Insurance Company of New York; in October

following, he took out an accident policy for $10,000, in the Travellers' Life and Accident Insurance Company of Hartford ; on the twenty-sixth day of January following (1872), he took out a life policy for $5,000, in the Knickerbocker Life Insurance Company. Thus he had, altogether, insurance upon himself, all payable to Mrs. Goss, to the amount of $25,000. It was a high financial value to place upon the existence of a man whose occupation was that of a gilder of picture frames, and whose income was only between $1,300 and $1,400 per annum. He was, by his own statement, only thirty-six years old at the date of the last policy, and was apparently in excellent physical case, so that there seemed little temptation for him to take about $450 each year out of his moderate earnings, in order to secure payment to his wife, at his death, of a principal sum so disproportionate to their ordinary scale of living and expenditure. These considerations did not deter the corporations from issuing the policies; but when, only eight days after the date of the last policy, the insured life was suddenly reported to have been extinguished, they sufficed to suggest such obvious suspicions that no one could feel surprised when the companies took time to investigate. The result of the investigation led to a refusal to pay; and on August 19, 1872, the widow instituted suits upon the several policies, in the Court of Common Pleas at Baltimore. The actions were transferred by the defendants to the Circuit Court of the United States, where they were entered in September following; and on May 27, 1873, the suit against the New York Mutual Life Insurance Company, being made the test case, was reached for trial. Messrs. Whitney and Johns represented the plaintiff ; Messrs. Wallis, Hinkley, Marshall, Chandler, and Stirling appeared for the defendants.

William E. Udderzook, a teacher of the “ fine art” of penmanship, and one Gottlieb Engle, had given affidavits for use in connection with the proof of death, and now appeared as the last persons who had seen W. S. Goss as a living man. On the evening of Friday, February 2, 1872, they had accompanied him to a small cottage standing in a lane, close to the York Road, about two and a half miles out of the city. Goss did not live at this house; but he had hired it some months previously, and used it as a workshop wherein to carry on, in solitude and secrecy, certain chemical experiments. For he was a man of inventive genius, and believed that he had discovered a process for making india rub

« PreviousContinue »