Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879).docx

Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879).docx - U.S Supreme...

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U.S. Supreme Court Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879) Baker v. Selden 101 U.S. 99 APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO Syllabus 1. A claim to the exclusive property in a peculiar system of bookkeeping cannot, under the law of copyright , be maintained by the author of a treatise in which that system is exhibited and explained. 2. The difference between a copyright and letters patent stated and illustrated. The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court. MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the Court. Charles Selden, the testator of the complainant in this case, in the year 1859 took the requisite steps for obtaining the copyright Page 101 U. S. 100 of a book, entitled "Selden's Condensed Ledger, or Bookkeeping Simplified," the object of which was to exhibit and explain a peculiar system of bookkeeping. In 1860 and 1861, he took the copyright of several other books, containing additions to and improvements upon the said system. The bill of complaint was filed against the defendant, Baker, for an alleged infringement of these copyrights. The latter, in his answer, denied that Selden was the author or designer of the books, and denied the infringement charged, and contends on the argument that the matter alleged to be infringed is not a lawful subject of copyright. The parties went into proofs, and the various books of the complainant, as well as those sold and used by the defendant, were exhibited before the examiner, and witnesses were examined to both sides. A decree was rendered for the complainant, and the defendant appealed. The book or series of books of which the complainant claims the copyright consists of an introductory essay explaining the system of bookkeeping referred to, to which are annexed certain forms or banks, consisting of ruled lines, and headings, illustrating the system and showing how it is to be used and carried out in practice. This system effects the same results as bookkeeping by double entry, but, by a peculiar arrangement of columns and headings , presents the entire operation, of a day, a week, or a month on a single page or on two pages facing each other, in an account book . The defendant uses a similar plan so far as results are concerned , but makes a different arrangement of the columns, and uses different headings. If the complainant's testator had the exclusive right to the use of the system explained in his book, it would be difficult to contend that the defendant does not infringe it, notwithstanding the difference in his form of arrangement; but if it be assumed that the system is open to public use , it seems to be equally difficult to contend that the books made and sold by the defendant are a violation of the copyright of the complainant's book considered merely as a book explanatory of the system. Where the truths of a science or the methods of an art are the common property of the whole world , any author has the right to express the one, or explain and use the other, in Page 1 of 5
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Page 101 U. S. 101 his own way. As an author, Selden explained the system in a particular way.
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  • Fall '19
  • Supreme Court of the United States, Idea-expression divide, Baker v. Selden

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