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U.S. Supreme Court

Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53 (1884)

Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company v. Sarony

Submitted December 13, 1883

Decided March 17, 1884

111 U.S. 53


It is within the constitutional power of Congress to confer upon the author, inventor, designer, or proprietor of a photograph the rights conferred by Rev.Stat. § 4952, so far as the photograph is a representation of original intellectual conceptions.

The object of the requirement in the Act of June 18, 1874, 18 Stat. 78, that notice of a copyright in a photograph shall be given by inscribing upon some visible portion of it the words Copyright, the date, and the name of the proprietor, is to give notice of the copyright to the public, and a notice which gives his surname and the initial letter of his given name is sufficient inscription of the name.

Whether a photograph is a mere mechanical reproduction or an original work of art is a question to be determined by proof of the facts of originality, of intellectual production, and of thought and conception on the part of the author, and when the copyright is disputed, it is important to establish those facts.

This was a suit for an infringement of a copyright in a photograph of one Oscar Wilde. The defense denied the constitutional right of Congress to confer rights of authorship on chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 111 U. S. 54

the maker of a photograph, and also denied that the surname of the proprietor with the initial letter of his given name prefixed to it ("N. Sarony") inscribed on the photograph was a compliance with the provisions of the Act of June 18, 1874. 18 Stat. 78. The essential facts appear in the opinion of the Court. The judgment below was for the plaintiff. The writ of error was sued out by the defendant.

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