404 U.S. 887

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

LEE v. RUNGE , 404 U.S. 887 (1971)

404 U.S. 887

Joyce LEE et al.
Senta Maria RUNGE.
No. 70-263.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 19, 1971

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, dissenting. Petitioner infringed respondent's copyright and a verdict was rendered against her. Petitioner argued that because the congressional power over copyrights and patents stemmed from the same constitutional provision, they both should be governed by the same standard. Thus, petitioner contended that the copyright was invalid because the book in question lacked 'novelty,' but the Court of Appeals rejected this argument saying that the appropriate standard for a copyright was 'originality' and that the respondent's book met this criteria. [Footnote 1] The standard of copyrightability presents an important question concerning the scope of Congress' enumerated powers. It has not heretofore been decided by this Court2 and, arguably, it was wrongly decided by the courts below.

Page 404 U.S. 887 , 888

In 1961, respondent published and copyrighted a book entitled Face Lifting by Exercise. This book explained how isometric facial exercises could be used to preserve the appearance of youth. It was based on respondent's study of anatomy, physical therapy and magazine and newspaper articles, but there is nothing in the record to indicate that the ideas it contained constituted anything more than 'selecting the last piece to put into the last opening in a jig-saw puzzle.' Sinclair & Carroll Co. v. Interchemical Corp., 325 U.S. 327, 335, 1147. It was merely a repetition of the existing state of the art. During 1962, petitioner was employed in respondent's beauty salon and we may assume that it was during this time that petitioner first read respondent's book and learned of respondent's facial exercises. In 1965, petitioner published The Joyce Lee Method of Scientific Facial Exercises. It contained a system of facial exercises strikingly similar to respondent's and, even though it was unquestionably expressed in petitioner's own language, we may safely conclude that it was based on respondent's book. An action for copyright infringement was made out, therefore, if the respondent's copyright was valid and if it embraced the ideas in her book.

The constitutional power over copyrights is found in the same clause that governs the issuance of patents: 'The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.' Art. I, 8, cl. 8. Many of the same interests underlie both grants of power. The Federalist No. 43. While this Court has not had many occasions to consider the constitutional parameters of copyright power, we have indicated that the introductory clause, 'To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts,' acts as a limit on Congress' [404 U.S. 887 , 889]

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