Ferris v. Frohman,
223 U.S. 424 (1912)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Ferris v. Frohman, 223 U.S. 424 (1912)

Ferris v. Frohman

No. 44

Submitted November 7, 1911

Decided February 19, 1912

223 U.S. 424


Although complainant may assert his own common law copyright to his play if he alleges that defendant has obtained a copyright for the play sought to be enjoined, and the defendant stands upon the copyright and is enjoined, a federal right is set up and denied, and this Court has jurisdiction to review the judgment under § 709, Rev.Stat.

Under the law as it existed in 1894, after a play had been performed in England, the rights of the owner to protection against the unauthorized production in England is only that given by the statutes; but the deprivation of common law rights by force of the statutes was limited by territorial bounds within which the statute was operative.

Public representation in this or in another country of a dramatic composition not printed and published does not deprive the owner of his common law right save by operation of statute.

Page 223 U. S. 425

At common law, the public performance of a play is not an abandonment to public use.

The purpose and effect of the copyright law is not to render fruits of piracy secure, and a copyright does not protect one producing a play which is substantially a copy of an unprinted and unpublished play the common law property right whereof is in another.

238 Ill. 430 affirmed.

The facts, which involve the right of authors to unpublished dramatic compositions and productions on the stage, are stated in the opinion.

Page 223 U. S. 429

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