Mark Twain and the Law, Who Knew?!

Garrison Keillor announced on the Writer’s Almanac, that today is the birthday of Samuel Clemens, the beloved American author, better known as Mark Twain.

One might wonder how Twain has any relation to law. Surprisingly his personal history is peppered with encounters, most specifically related to copyright law. A few books in our collection allow us to explore Twain’s relationship to the law further.

Siva Vaidhyanathan in Copyrights and Copywrongs notes that Twain was a key player in the creation of copyright law throughout his career. Twain’s impetus to study copyright law occurred when he lost money from Canadian publishing pirates. Even more, to prohibit new publishers from using his pen name, after copyright expiration, Clemens attempted trademark of “Mark Twain.” You can find this book in the Cornell Library main collection: Z642 .V35 2001

Perhaps surprisingly, Michael E. Tigar actually cites Twain in Thinking about Terrorism to help define the parameters of terrorism today. You can find this book in the Cornell Library main collection: K5256 .T54 2007

Please browse Julien for more literature related to Twain and the law, including copyright; you can also find many of Twain’s classics in e-book form here.

HeinOnline, one of the library databases, offers a plethora of articles related to Twain and the law as well. Below are a few samples:

Mark Twain—Legal Reformer

3 Kan. City L. Rev. 107 (1934-1935)

Mark Twain and the Law

54 Fla. B.J. 595 (1980)

Mark Twain and the Copyright Dilemma

52 A.B.A. J. 56 (1966)

Below are a  noteworthy copyright cases found on library databases.

Clemens v. Belford, 14 Fed. 728 (N.D. Ill 1883), and

Clemens v. Estes & Lauriat, 22 F. 899 (C.C.D. Mass 1885)

posted by CAY & HEC