Items of Interest

Persons who possess letters written by famous people may not be fully aware that they have no right to make or sell copies of such letters unless they obtain the permission of the writers or of their legal representatives. Under the common law, the literary property in one's letters remains in the writer's possession or in the possession of his legal representatives unless or until disposed of.

Thus a dealer offering for sale letters written by Mrs. Eddy is not privileged to quote extensively from them in his catalogue, nor can he make copies for distribution or for inspection except with the permission of the Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy, who own the literary rights to all letters written by her. Unpublished manuscripts by Mrs. Eddy are in the same category; copies of them may not be made lawfully without the permission of the Trustees under the Will.

Just so, the literary property in manuscripts of another author remains in the author's and his legal representatives' possession until disposed of, although the physical property of the manuscript or letter may be owned by the one to whom it has been presented or by one who has purchased it. These rights of a writer of a letter or manuscript to protect his writings from publication without authorization by others have been tested and upheld in the courts, including the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Appellate Court of New York, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Among the Churches
July 27, 1935

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