Copyright & the Confederacy
Protection of intellectual property in the Confederate States of America was not limited to the formation and operation of a Patent Office. The Confederate Constitution mirrored the U.S. Constitution in its grant of rights to the Congress to protect the rights of authors as well as inventors. In its Act of May 21, 1861, the Confederate Congress gave the Confederate District Courts original jurisdiction over all copyright matters, and also the responsibility to maintain registers of copyrighted works. The law required persons desiring to copyright their work to deposit the title of the work in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the district where that person resided, and to deposit the work itself with the Clerk's office within three months. The copyright extended for an original term of 28 years, with provision for a renewal term of 14 years.
Many of these registers have been lost. Others, however, exist in the Library of Congress, the Virginia State Historical Society and various libraries. From the available evidence, the exercise of the right of copyright was extensive, given the Southern preoccupation with the conduct of the war. Even areas as remote as Pamlico County, North Carolina-then as now a coastal county with a very small, primarily rural population-produced substantial creative output which is now reflected in copyright records which reside in the Rare Book Room of the Library of Congress.
The actual claim of copyright typically went something like this:
Confederate States of America,
In District Court
Southern District of Georgia
Be it remembered, and these presents are to certify, That on the Twentieth Day of July, A.D. 1863 John Clark and Barney Fisher of the said District hath deposited in this office the title of a Musical Composition, the title of which is in the words following:
Charles S. Henry,
Many of the copyright claims were for government publications. Thus, copyrights were sought on many State Papers, Official Battle Reports, a Digest of Military and Naval Laws, and a set of forms to assist Officers in "the painful duty" of drawing up Charges for Courts Martial. Titles registered included Remarkable Trials and Executions in the Confederate Service, a Guide for Claimants of Deceased Soldiers, and Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States. The claim of copyright in this work contains the following catty remark: "Third and only Reliable Edition, In which are corrected 3,000 Important Errors Contained in the Editions published by West & Johnston." West and Johnston's reaction to this commentary is lost to history.
Confederate citizens also registered numerous copyrights for grammars, spellers, readers, arithmetics, "definers", and catechisms. For example, The Reverend Charles E. Leverett wrote the Southern Confederacy Arithmetic for Common Schools & Academies. He was also the author of Southern Confederacy Class Reader.
Scientific works included:
In 1865, Z.B. Trice of Macon, Ga. wrote and copyrighted Trice's theory and practice - for the use of water and brandy in the treatment of diseases. (Perhaps its time for a reprint of this one!)
However, the subject matter of the works in which copyright was claimed in the Confederacy was overwhelmingly patriotic and sentimental. The following representative sample of songs demonstrates this:
Some unknown author wrote and registered a song entitled "Do they think of me at home?," and E. Clarke Isley responded with an answering song entitled "Yes, we think of thee at home."
Books likewise were overwhelmingly directed towards some war-related theme. Americus Featherman, an Examiner in the Confederate Patent Office, wrote and copyrighted a book entitled "The Belle of New Orleans, A Romance of the War." The "Belle", undoubtedly a high-bred young woman of immense beauty, must have both charmed and tricked the witless Yankees occupying New Orleans while she spied for the South. Since the book was written in 1863, Belle's activities probably resulted in the eventual evacuation of New Orleans by the Northern soldiers - a result which unfortunately did not happen in reality.
Other books copyrighted during the war are "Heroes and Martyrs of Georgia", and a book with the strange title "Master William Mitten, or, A Youth of Brilliant Talents Who Was Ruined by Bad Luck." Presumably this book was not written by William Mitten, although the name of the author is unknown.
Many apologists of slavery wrote during the war, as is evidenced by the following book in 1864: Nellie Norton, or Southern Slavery & the Bible, A Scriptural Reflection of the Principal Arguments Upon Which the Abolitionists Rely, A Vindication of Southern Slavery from the Old and New Testament, by Reverend E.W. Warren.
Only a few listed authors are known by reputation today, the most well-known being the composer Stephen Foster, who copyrighted "Come where my love lies dreaming", and General W.I. Hardee, who wrote a treatise entitled Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics.
Finally, there are several books whose titles alone prove that some things never change. Take, for example, My Marriage and its Consequences, or, Appearances Deceive - Men Are Not What They Seem to Be, by Sallie M. Smith. Mrs. Smith was obviously not happy with the chameleon-like Mr. Smith. Or how about "Confessions of a Flirt" by Mrs. Edward Leigh. (In the original listing, the "Mrs." is set in italics, possibly to inject a note of irony into the fact that a "Mrs." was writing a book on flirtation).
The absolute end, though, is The Ups and Downs of Wife Hunting by a Starkville barrister, published in Americus, Ga., presumably by a barrister.
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