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Dissenting Opinions Challenge Court's Decision on Circus Advertisement Copyrightsby@legalpdf

Dissenting Opinions Challenge Court's Decision on Circus Advertisement Copyrights

by Legal PDFOctober 18th, 2023
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The United States Circuit Court of Appeals witnessed a division in opinion in the case concerning circus advertisement prints. Judges Lurton, Day, and Severens voiced their dissent in an opinion, arguing that protecting purely promotional works under copyright law doesn't serve the constitutional objective of promoting the useful arts. They contended that a pictorial illustration primarily designed for advertising and lacking intrinsic artistic value shouldn't be entitled to copyright protection. In contrast to the majority opinion, which upheld copyright protection for these prints, this dissenting view emphasizes the importance of preserving the distinct boundary between artistic works and advertisements in copyright law.

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BLEISTEIN v. DONALDSON LITHOGRAPHING CO. 239 Court Filing, retrieved on September 29, 2023 is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This part is 4 of 4.

JUSTICES HARLAN and MCKENTNA, dissenting

Judges Lurton, Day and Severens, of the Circuit Court of Appeals, concurred in affirming the judgment of the District Court. Their views were thus expressed in an opinion delivered by Judge Lurton: "What we hold is this: That if a chromo, lithograph, or other print, engraving, or picture has no other use than that of a mere advertisement, and no value aside from this function, it would not be promotive of the useful arts, within the meaning of the constitutional provision, to protect the 'author' in the exclusive use thereof, and the copyright statute should not be construed as including such a publication, if any other construction is admissible. If a mere label simply designating or describing an article to which it is attached, and which has no value separated from the article, does not come within the constitutional clause upon the subject of copyright, it must follow that a pictorial illustration designed and useful only as an advertisement, and having no intrinsic value other than its function as an advertisement, must be equally without the obvious meaning of the Constitution. It must have some connection with the. fine arts to give it intrinsic value, and that it shall have is the meaning which we attach to the act of June 18, 1874, amending the provisions of the copyright law. We are unable to discover anything useful or meritorious in the design copyrighted by the plaintiffs in error other than as an advertisement of acts to be done or exhibited to the public in Wallace's show. No evidence, aside from the deductions which are to be drawn from the prints themselves, was offered to show that these designs had any original artistic qualities. The jury could not reasonably have found merit or value aside from the purely business object of advertising a show, and the instruction to find for the defendant was not error. Many other points have been urged as justifying the result reached in the court below. We find it unnecessary to express any opinion upon them, in view of the conclusion already announced. The judgment must be affirmed." Courier Lithographing Co. v. Donaldson .Lithographing Co., 104 Fed. Rep. 993, 996.


I entirely concur in these views, and therefore dissent from the opinion and judgment of this court. The clause of the Constitution giving Congress power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited terms to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective works and discoveries, does not, as I think, embrace a mere advertisement of a circus.


MR. JUSTICE MCKENNA authorizes me to say that he also dissents.




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This court case 2023-0409 retrieved on September 29, 2023, from tile.loc.gov is part of the public domain. The court-created documents are works of the federal government, and under copyright law, are automatically placed in the public domain and may be shared without legal restriction.