The Marquis de Montholon to Mr. Seward

Sir: I have the honor to address herewith to your excellency the text of a new law adopted the 14th of July last by the French legislative body about the rights of heirs and of those having claim on authors, composers, or artists.

As your excellency will observe, this new legislation, which extends to fifty years after the decease of the author the rights of his heirs, admits to the benefit of its previous foreign writers and artists to the extent determined by treaties about literary and artistic property.

Accept, sir, the assurance of my very high consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

[Page 384]


No. 14,407.—The rights of heirs and those having claims on authors, July 14, 1866.

Napoleon, by the grace of God and the will of the nation Emperor of the French, to all present and to come, greeting: We have sanctioned and do sanction, promulgated and do promulgate, as follows:


Extract from the minutes of the legislative body.

The legislative body has adopted the draught of law of the tenor following:

Article 1. The duration of the rights granted by anterior laws to the heirs, irregular successors, grantees or legatees of authors, composers or artists, is extended to fifty years, dating from the decease of the author.

During this period of fifty years the surviving husband or wife, whatever may be the matrimonial arrangement, and independently of rights which may result in favor of this survivor from the regulations of the community, has sole enjoyment of the rights which the deceased author has not disposed of by contract between parties in being, or by will. However, if the author leave heirs in reserve, that enjoyment is limited for the benefit of such heirs, according to the proportions and distinctions established by Articles 913 and 915 of the Code Napoleon.

This enjoyment does not take place where there exists, at the moment of death, a separation of persons pronounced against this surviving party; it ceases in the case where the survivor contracts a new marriage.

The rights of heirs in remainder, (reserve,) or of other heirs or successors, during this period of fifty years, remains, moreover, regulated in conformity with the prescriptions of the Code Napoleon.

When the succession devolves to the state, the exclusive right is extinguished, without prejudice to the rights of creditors and the execution of agreements of cession which may have been consented to by the author or his representatives.

Art. 2. All the provisions of anterior laws contrary to those of the new law are and remain abrogated.

Passed upon in open session at Paris June 27, 1866.

The President, WALEWSKI.

Secretaries: Sevovin Abbatueri, Count W. de La Valette, Alfred Darimon.

Extract from the minutes of the Senate.

The senate does not oppose the promulgation of the law relative to the rights of heirs, irregular successors, grantees or legatees of authors, composers, or artists.

Passed upon and voted in session at the palace of the Senate July 6, 1866.

The President, TROPLENY.

The secretaries: Ferdinand Barrot, Count Boulay (de la Meurthe,) General, Baron Charon.

Examined and sealed with the seal of the senate.

The Senator and Secretary, FERDINAND BARROT.

We command and order that these presents, clothed with the seal of state and inserted in the bulletin of the laws, be addressed to the courts, the tribunals, and administrative authorities, that they be inscribed on their records, and observed and caused to be observed; and our minister of state for the department of justice and religion is charged to supervise the publication thereof.

By the Emperor:

Secretary of State, E. Rouher.

Sealed with the great seal.

Keeper of the Seals, Minister of State for the Departments of Justice and Religion: