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At common law, the author of an unpublished manuscript had a property in his production, which continued in him until publication by his consent. But the question of what rights an author possessed in his literary productions, independent of any statutory provisions upon the subject, was for a long time a topic of excited discussion among literary men, and one of much interest to the legal profession, it being a subject of much litigation in the courts. The first determination which the subject received in the court of King's Bench, was in the famous case of Millar v. Taylor, decided in 1769. It was held by the court that while at common law an author had the sole right of first printing and publishing for sale his writings, yet after such publication made by him, he possessed no property rights in his production, which could be infringed by a republication by a stranger, unless the author had taken out a copyright under some statute giving him such right.

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