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Secretary of State recommends republic grant copyrights


On this day in 1837, Robert A. Irion, secretary of state for the Republic of Texas, recommended in his annual report to the Congress that the republic grant copyrights. This was not the first discussion of copyrights in the Republic of Texas. On March 15, 1836, the delegates to the Convention of 1836 voted to add to the Constitution Article II, Section 3, authorizing patents and copyrights, but provided for a three-year delay before implementation. In 1838 Congress made an attempt to pass a special law authorizing copyright of a map for five years, but this failed to pass. Finally, on January 28, 1839, President Mirabeau B. Lamar approved an act that provided "patent" rights, running for fourteen years, on "composition of matter, liberal arts, sciences or literature, books, maps or charts," to citizens and those who had filed intentions of becoming citizens, upon payment of a thirty-dollar fee. Only three copyrights were issued, and of the copyrighted works only one was published, George William Bonnell's Topographical Description of Texas, to Which Is Added an Account of the Indian Tribes (Austin: Clark, Wing, and Brown, 1840). The imprint of this small volume is unique in that it states the copyright was secured in the Republic of Texas. Inasmuch as two of the three works registered in the republic were never published and the third was registered in the United States as well as in Texas, when Texas was admitted into the Union, there was no necessity for Texas copyrights to be incorporated into the United States copyright system, and no action was taken.

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