Banks v. Manchester

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Banks v. Manchester
Submitted October 29, 1888
Decided November 19, 1888
Full case nameBanks v. Manchester
Citations128 U.S. 244 (more)
9 S. Ct. 36; 32 L. Ed. 425
States cannot confer copyrights on public domain case records to citizens or to states themselves.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Melville Fuller
Associate Justices
Samuel F. Miller · Stephen J. Field
Joseph P. Bradley · John M. Harlan
Stanley Matthews · Horace Gray
Samuel Blatchford · Lucius Q. C. Lamar II
Case opinion
MajorityBlatchford, joined by unanimous

Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244 (1888), was a United States Supreme Court ruling that dealt with copyright.


In 1882, to facilitate the printing of records of the Supreme Court of Ohio, the State of Ohio passed a resolution to establish a copyright held by the Supreme Court of Ohio's court reporter and advertised a contract for the lowest bidder to print copies of the records for Ohio in exchange for obtaining exclusive publishing rights for two years. H. W. Derby & Company won the bidding war and assigned all their right and interest in the contract to Banks & Brothers. Banks then contracted the Capital Printing and Publishing Company to print the books.

Banks proceeded to print various reports such as Bierce et al. v. Bierce et al. and The Scioto Valley Railway Company v. McCoy. Although for a time exclusive to Banks's publications, G. L. Manchester published the cases in the American Law Journal, a periodical. Banks sought to stop Manchester from printing the cases. Manchester refused because judges had authored the decisions and so he claimed that Banks did not have a copyright. Banks's position was that the state's copyright, which was held by court reporter E. L. De Witt and licensed to Banks & Brothers, afforded exclusivity.


The Court ruled that the state could not hold a copyright and affirmed its decision in Wheaton v. Peters[1] by stating "what a court or a judge thereof cannot confer on a reporter as the basis of a copyright in him, they cannot confer on any other person or on the state."[2]


  1. ^ Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. (8 Pet.) 591 (1834).
  2. ^ Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244 (1888).

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