British-American Copyright Convention Draft, Washington (1853)

Source: National Archives, Kew: FO 93/8/32

British-American Copyright Convention Draft, Washington (1853), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Chapter 1 Page 1

United States
Copyright (not ratified)
Washington, 17 February, 1853

Chapter 1 Page 2

Her Britannic Majesty
The United States of America
the Establishment of International Copyright,

            Her Majesty the Queen of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and
the President of the United States of America,
being equally desirous of extending in
each country the enjoyment of copyright to
works of literature and of the fine arts
which may be first published in the other;
her Britannic Majesty and the President of

Chapter 1 Page 3

the United States have deemed it expedient
to conclude a special convention for that
purpose, and have therefore named as
their plenipotentiaries, that is to say:_
      Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Ireland, John Fiennes
Crampton, Esquire, Her Majesty's Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to
the United States.
      And the President of the United States
Edward Everett, Secretary of State of the
United States who, after having communicated
to each other their respective full powers, found in
good and due form, have agreed upon and
concluded the following articles:_

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Article I.

      From and after the date on which, according to
the provisions of Article XI the present convention
shall come into operation, the authors of
works of literature or of art, to whom the laws
of either of the two countries do now or may
hereafter give the right of property, or
copyright, shall be entitled to exercise that
right in the Territories of the other of such
countries for the same term, and to the
same extent as the authors of works of the
same nature, if published in such other
country, would therein be entitled to
exercise such right; so that the
republication or piracy in either country, of
any work of literature or of art, published in

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the other, shall be dealt with in the same manner
as the republication or piracy of a work of the
same nature first published in such other
country; and so that such authors in the
one country shall have the same remedies
before the courts of justice in the other country
and shall enjoy in that other country the
same protection against piracy and
unauthorized republication, as the law now
does or may hereafter grant to authors in
that country.
      The terms "works of literature or of art"
displayed at the beginning of this Article,
shall be understood to comprise publications
of books, of dramatic works, of musical
compositions, of drawing, of painting, of

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sculpture, of engraving, of lithography, and of
any other works whatsoever of literature and
of the fine arts.
      The lawful representatives or assigns of
authors, composers, painters, sculptors, or
engravers, shall, in all respects, enjoy the
same rights which by the present Convention
are granted to the authors, composers,
painters, sculptors or engravers themselves.

Article II

      The stipulations of the proceeding Article
shall also be applicable to the representation
of dramatic works and to the performance
of musical compositions, in so far as the
laws of each of the two countries are or
shall be applicable in this respect to

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dramatic and musical works first publicly
represented or performed therein.
      It is understood that the protection
stipulated by the present Article is not
intended to prohibit fair imitation, or
adaptation of dramatic works to the stage
in England and the United States respectively,
but is only meant to prevent piratical
      The question whether a work is an imitation
or a piracy, shall in all cases be decided
by the courts of justice of the respective
countries according to the laws in force in

Article III

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      The importation into and the sale in either of
the two countries of piratical copies of works
which are protected from piracy under
Article I, of the present Convention, are
prohibited, whether such piratical copies
originate in the country where the work was
published, on in any other country.

Article IV

      In the event of an infraction of the
provisions of the foregoing Articles, the
pirated works or articles shall be [dealt
with in each country according to the
laws which now exist or may hereafter
exist in that country in respect to such
works or articles;] and the persons who

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may have committed such infraction shall be
liable in each country to the penalties and
actions which are or may be prescribed by
the laws of that country for such offences,
committed in respect of a work or
production of home origin.

Article V

      Neither authors, nor their lawful
representatives or assigns, shall be
entitled in either country to the protection
stipulated by the preceding articles, nor shall
copyrights be claimable in either country,
unless the work|s| shall have been
registered in the manner following, that
is to say;-

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1º. If the work be one that has first appeared
in the United States, it must be registered at
the Hall of the Company of Stationers in
2º. If the work be one that has first
appeared in the dominions of her
British Majesty it must be registered
at the Department of the State in Washington.
      No person shall be entitled to such
protection as aforesaid, unless he shall
have duly complied with the laws and
regulations of the respective countries in
regard to the work in respect of which such
protection may be claimed. With regard to
books, maps, prints, or musical
publications, no person shall be entitled to

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such protection, unless he shall have delivered
gratuitously, at one or other of the places
mentioned above, as the case may be, one
copy of the best edition [printed and published]
or in the best state, in order to its being
deposited at the place appointed for that
purpose in each of the two Countries; that is
to say, in Great Britain, at the British Museum
at London, and in the United States at the
Department of State at Washington.
      In every case, the formality of deposit
and registration must be fulfilled within three
months after the first publication of the work
in the other country. With regard to works
published in parts, [provided that a period
exceeding six months shall not intervene

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between the publication of the parts] the
period of three months shall not begin to run
until the date of the publication of the last
part, but the author or his representatives
may, if they choose, register each part as a
separate work.
      A certified copy of the entry in the Register
Book of the Company of Stationers in London
shall confer, within the British Dominions, the
exclusive right of republication, until a
better right shall have been established
by any other party before a court of justice.
      The certificate given under the laws of the
United States proving the registration of any
work in that country, shall be valid for the
same purposes throughout the Territories of

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the United States.
      A certificate or certified copy of the
registration of any work so reprinted in either
country shall, if required, be delivered at the
time of registration; and such certificate
shall state the exact date at which the
registration was made.
      The charge for the registration of a single
work, under the stipulations of this Article,
shall not exceed one shilling in England, nor
twenty five cents in the United states; and the
further charge for a certificate of such
registration shall not exceed the sum of five
shillings in England, nor one dollar in the
United States.

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Article VI

      It is hereby agreed by the two High
Contracting Parties, that if a work is
published in either country, and the copyright
thereof secured by registration under the
Provisions of the of the present Treaty in the other
country; and if two or more of editions of such
work shall have been published in either
country at different prices; then such
author, his representatives or assigns
shall publish, or permit to be published, in
the other country an edition of such work
not more expensive than the cheapest
of the said two or more editions published
in his own country; and it is agreed that
the publication of such edition shall be

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made within twelve months after the first
publication of the work in the country where
it was first published.

Article VII

      With regard to any article other than
books, prints, maps, and musical
publications, in respect to which protection
may be claimable under Article I of the
present Convention, it is agreed, that any
other mode of registration than that
prescribed in Article V, which is or may be
applicable by law in one of the two countries
to any work or article first published in
such country, for the purpose of affording
protection of copyright in such work or

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article, shall be extended, on equal terms, to any
similar work or article first published in the
other country.

Article VIII

      In order to facilitate the execution of the
present Convention, the two High Contracting
Parties engage to communicate to each
other the laws and regulations which may
hereafter be established in their respective
Territories, with respect to copyright in works
or productions protected by the stipulations of
the present Convention.

Article IX

      The stipulations of the present Convention

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shall in no way affect the right which each
of the two High Contracting Parties expressly
reserves to itself, of controlling or of
prohibiting by measures of legislation or of
internal police the sale, circulation,
representation, or exhibition of any work
or production, in regard to which either
country may deem it expedient to
exercise that right.

Article X

      Nothing in this Convention shall be
construed to affect the right of either of the
two High Contracting Parties to prohibit
the importation into its own dominions,
of such books as by its internal law, or

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under engagements with other States, are or
may be declared to be piracies, or infringements
of copyright.

Article XI

      The present Convention shall come into
operation from and after a day to be fixed
upon by the two High Contracting Parties on
the exchange of the Ratifications. Due
notice shall be given beforehand in each
country by the government of that country
of the day which may be so fixed upon; and
the stipulations of the Convention shall apply
only to works or articles published after
that day.
      The convention shall continue in force

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for five years from the day on which it
may come into operation; and if neither Party
shall, twelve months before the expiration
of the said period of five years give notice
of its intention to terminate its operation,
the Convention shall continue in force for
a year longer, and so from year to
year until the expiration of a year's
notice from either Party for its
      The High Contracting Parties, however,
reserve to themselves the power of
making by common consent, in this
Convention, any modifications which
may not be inconsistent with its spirit
and principles, and which experience

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of its working may show to be desirable.

Article XII

      The present Convention shall be
ratified, and the ratification shall be
exchanged at Washington as soon as may
be within twelve months from the date
of signature.
      In witness whereof the respective
plenipotentiaries have signed the same,
and have affixed thereto their respective
      Done at Washington            the seventeenth
day of February in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and fifty three.

John F Crampton      Edward Everett

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      Whereas the time limited for the ex-
change of the ratifications of the Convention
for the establishment of international copy-
right, which was concluded at Washington on
the seventeenth day of February, one thousand
eight hundred and fifty-three, between Her
Britannic Majesty and the United States
of America may expire before the said ex-
change can be effected, the undersigned,
John Fiennes Crampton, Esq., Her Britannic
Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary to the United States, and
William L. Marcy, Secretary of State of the
United States have met and agreed upon

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the following additional article to the said

Additional Article.

      The time within which the aforesaid ex-
change of ratifications was originally to have
taken place shall be extended to a period of
six months from this date.
      In testimony whereof, the undersigned have
hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals.
      Done, in duplicate, at Washington, this eight
day of February, in the year of our Lord one
thousand eight hundred and fifty-four.

                                    John F Crampton

                                    W.S. Marcy

Transcription by: Megan Wren


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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK