Register and Online Image Companion
You will find three principal items on this webpage. The first is a Register of Copyright Infringement Suits & Actions From c. 1560 to 1800. Second, this webpage serves as an online companion to my recent article What History Teaches Us About Copyright Injunctions and the Inadequate-Remedy-at-Law Requirement, 81 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1197 (2008). Third, I have posted transcriptions of court orders cited in an amicus brief that Tyler Ochoa and I submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Golan v. Holder, No. 10-545, Transcriptions. For other projects I am working on, please see here.
Please do not be alarmed if you have been re-directed to this webpage from oldcopyrightcases.org. That is the domain name for my copyright history project, and as the project outgrows this particular webpage, I will move it elsewhere.
oldcopyrightcases.org will always point to the appropriate webpage.
Tomas Gomez-Arostegui, Associate Professor of Law
Register of Copyright Infringement Suits & Actions From c. 1560 to 1800
The attached PDF (v 1.0.7)—which requires Adobe Reader 8 or later—contains a list of the cases that I compiled while conducting research for my article. [Sept. 2014: The database was down for a while, and my apologies for that. I have re-uploaded the old file. I have updated the database since 2011—correcting errors and including new cases—but the file is not yet in a presentable form. At some point in the future, I will upload the new version, but I am not sure when as my writing projects take precedence. In the mean time, if you are working in this field, please contact me and I would be happy to share my latest findings with you.]
The various columns in the spreadsheet are fairly self-explanatory, but some comments here are in order. Dates before 1752 are given old style, but with a slash in the year when appropriate. Dates given for answers (including partial answers) are the dates they were sworn, which is sometimes a couple of days before they were filed in the Court of Chancery or Star Chamber, usually because the answer was taken by a commission in the country. The principal case names are taken from the first listed plaintiff in the bill of complaint and the first listed defendant in the request for a subpoena at the end of the bill of complaint. The remaining plaintiffs and defendants are listed in the order in which they are listed at the beginning and end of the bill, respectively. The list is largely confined to English cases, as that was the main focus of my research, but some Scottish and Irish cases also appear on the list. The three known American decisions before 1800 also appear. At a later date, I will insert cases brought before the Court of Assistants of the Stationers’ Company.
If you would like to be made aware of any changes to the list, please send me an email at tomas [at] lclark.edu and I’ll add you to my mailing list. If you have any suggestions or comments please email me as well. Ideally, this will become a collaborative effort among copyright and book historians and scholars. In making the attached register, I consulted work previously conducted by Ronan Deazley, R.J. Goulden, and Joyce H. Brodowski. I discovered the remaining cases and documents through painstaking review of the indices of pleadings and register books over the period of twelve weeks spent in The National Archives and several years of research outside the Archives. I have personally reviewed all the original sources listed in the register.
Online Image Companion
In my article, I rely on original manuscript documents from the English Court of Chancery to argue that the U.S. Supreme Court could hold today, without running afoul of traditional equitable principles, that a copyright injunction can issue in federal court without regard to the adequacy of money damages or other legal remedies. Below, you will find images of some of those documents to help convey a sense of the scope of the research. All images were taken on location at The National Archives (TNA:PRO) in Kew, just outside London, England. I would like to thank the following people at the Archives for aiding me during my visits: Amanda Bevan, John Cole, Liz Hore, Ian Ireland, Kelly Kimpton, Kostas Ntanos, and Tim Padfield.
Readers should also consult the Primary Sources on Copyright Project (1450-1900), launched in March 2008, which hosts a wide variety of online images relating to copyright history.
NOTE: The National Archives continues to hold Crown copyright in the documents reproduced below, and thus users are not permitted to distribute them commercially. At the request of the Archives, I have watermarked the pertinent images. Doing so enables me to reproduce them at full resolution.
All copyright-infringement suits in the English Court of Chancery began with an unsworn bill of complaint. The images below represent the bills of complaint in: (1) Pawlett v. Lee (Ch. 1681), fig. 1, a suit involving a Stationers’ copyright, or purported common-law copyright, which was brought during one of the lapses of the Printing Act of 1662, cited in footnotes 109 & 204-207 of my article; (2) Stationers v. Wellington (Ch. 1701), fig. 2, a petit bill of complaint alleging patent infringement but omitting a request for an injunction, cited in footnote 137; (3) Tonson v. Baker (Ch. 1710), fig. 3, the first copyright suit filed under the Statute of Anne, cited in footnotes 257-266 and the subject of a separate law review article (link); and (4) Becket v. Donaldson (Ch. 1771), fig. 4, the suit that was the beginning of the end for common-law copyright in published works, cited in footnote 438 of my article. All pleadings in the Chancery were submitted on parchment.
(Fig. 1: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C10/202/96, m. 1
(Fig. 2: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C6/476/4, m. 1
(Fig. 3: click to enlarge; warning large
file) Source TNA:PRO C9/371/41, m. 1
(Fig. 4: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C12/61/24, m. 1
All Chancery orders and decrees are indexed in contemporary, manuscript indices which must be perused in person at The National Archives. The images below show the exterior, fig. 5, and interior pages, fig. 6, of an index book dated 1720-1720/1. A reference to Baskett v. Parsons (Ch. 1721) can be seen on the first page, toward the bottom, of figure 6, indicating that some kind of order or decree relating to that case will be found on folio 208 of the C33/335 register book. As figure 6 demonstrates, the subject matters of orders and decrees are not indexed. One can only learn the contents of an order or decree by reviewing the order or decree itself. The image also shows that the pages of the index books were made of paper, rather than vellum.
(Fig. 5: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO IND 1/1716
(Fig. 6: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO IND 1/1716
The orders and decrees of the Court of Chancery are contained in register books. Originally, these books were all bound in vellum, sometimes in immense volumes spanning over one thousand folios, but as the books have begun to fall apart over time, The National Archives has split them into more manageable parts and rebound them in buckram. An unusually large register book from 1622 can be seen below in figure 7, along with a more manageable register book in its original binding from the year 1703, in figure 8. The pages are paper, rather than vellum.
(Fig. 7: click to enlarge; warning
large file) Source TNA:PRO C33/143
(Fig. 8: click to enlarge; warning
large file) Source TNA:PRO C33/302
Orders ranged from one-line entries to spanning several folios. Decrees obviously tended more toward the latter. In footnote 116 of my article, I mention that Wolfe v. Payne (Ch. 1563/4) could very well have been the first case to order an injunction in a copyright-infringement suit. An image of the Court’s order in that case is reproduced in figure 9 below. A transcription of the order may be found in my article in footnote 116. I also noted in footnote 171 of the article that Chiswell v. Lee (Ch. 1681) was an interesting case because the Chancellor had ordered the author of an allegedly infringed book to determine himself whether the defendant’s book was a copy, rather than the Court deciding the issue for itself. That order, followed by my transcription of it, can be found below in figure 10. For those who are curious, the order mentioned above from Baskett v. Parsons (Ch. 1721) is reproduced below in figure 11, along with a transcription.
(Fig. 9: click to enlarge; warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C33/30, f. 143v
(Fig. 10: click to enlarge;
warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C33/257, f. 100r
(Fig. 11: click to enlarge;
warning large file)
Source TNA:PRO C33/335, f. 208v
Transcription of figure 10, Chiswell v. Lee, sub nom. Chiswell v. Braddill, line by line with contractions and ligatures silently expanded:
|C||Ricardus Chiswell quer||Sabbati 17o December |
|Lord Chancellor||Thomas Braddill Thomas|
|Symonds et al Defendants|
- Whereas by an order of the 8th day of December instant for the reasons therein
- Conteyned Itt was ordered that the Injunction against the Defendants in this cause
- should be Continued untill the Defendants should be Continued untill the Defendants [sic] should perfectly answer the plaintiffs bill
- & this Court take other order to the Contrary Now upon mocion made unto this Court by Mr Hutchines &
- Mr. Blackerby being of the Defendants Counsell in the presence of Mr Attorney Generall Mr Sollicitor Generall & others
- being of the plaintiffs Counsell & upon hearing what was alleadged on either side Itt is ordered that the Defendants doe forthwith
- deliver unto Dr Burnett one of the books in the Defendants answer mencioned to be an Abridgment of the said Dr Burnetts
- History of Reformacion or else A Compleate Copy thereof Conteyning one perfect Exampler of eidy 
- sheete & parte of sheets thereof, togeather with the titles Tables Epistles prefaces or figures & all other matters
- thereunto belonging which the said Defendants have hitherto printed or caused to be printed And the said Dr
- Burnet is desired to peruse the same & to Certifye whether it be the same or not with the History of
- the Reformation of the Church of England written by the said Dr Burnett or after what manner he finds
- the said booke to be printed by the Defendants upon whose Certificates such further order shalbe taken as shall
- be just And in the meane time & further order to the Contrary the Injunction formerly granted in this cause
- is to stand /
Transcription of figure 11, Baskett v. Parsons, line by line with contractions and ligatures silently expanded:
|-B||Johannes Baskett et al quer||Jovis 4to May |
|Henricus Parsons Defendant|
- Upon the plaintiffes humble petition this day preferred to the Right Honourable the Master of the Rolles for the reasons therein
- contained it is Ordered that the plaintiffes be at liberty to amend their bill as they shalbe advised on payment of 20 shillings Costs to the Defendant in
- respect thereof /
Special thanks to Brienne Carpenter for helping put this page together and to Andy Johnson-Laird for image editing and watermarking.
Copyright 2008-2009 Tomas Gomez-Arostegui.
No copyright is claimed in works subject to Crown copyright.