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The foregoing history of how the statutory provision for the copyright protection of motion pictures was adapted to the later development of sound tracks as an adjunct to the pictures illustrates another process of adaptation to new technology. Here, while there was a court decision (in the page case) that hinted indirectly at the inclusion of the sound track as part of the protected motion picture, there was no clear ruling on the question for many years during which a practical adaptation was made by the industry groups concerned; and ultimately the premise of that practical adaptation was confirmed by a Congressional pronouncement and by the adoption of a corresponding interpretation of the law in the regulations of the Copyright office concerning its registration practices.
A.2.2.5 Use of Music in Sound Tracks. Shortly after the White-Smith decision in 1908, Congress enacted a general revision of the copyright law in 1909. Section 1 of the revised law incorporated, among the exclusive rights embraced in copyright, the new right to make any "record" of a literary, dramatic, or musical work from which the work may be "reproduced." In the case of music under section 1(e), this right with respect to "the parts of instruments serving to reproduct mechanically the musical work" was made subject to a compulsory license; that is, whenever the copyright owner permitted the use of his music in a mechanical recording, anyone else could make a similar recording of the music upon payment of a royalty of 2 cents per record.
In Jerome v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 67 F. Supp. 736 (SDNY) decided in 1946, the defendant motion picture producer contended that the compulsory license provisions for the mechanical recording of music should be applied to the recording of music on motion picture sound tracks. The court rejected this contention, saying:
"When (the compulsory license provisions) went into effect
"'Talkies' are but a species of the genus motion pictures."... The sound on film parallels and synchronizes with the pictures on the film. The sound on film is not the type of 'mechanical reproduction' to which Section 1(e) of the Copyright Act applies...
"The Copyright Act permits the copyright of a motion picture...;
This decision may be seen as a counterpart of, and consistent with, those reviewed above which extended the terms of the statute to include motion pictures and their sound tracks so as to provide the benefits of copyright to the creators of motion pictures and to the creators of works used in motion pictures. In the Jerome case, extension of the compulsory license to the recording of music in motion picture sound tracks would have cut back sharply on the benefits enjoyed by the copyright owners of music; motion pictures producers would have paid almost nothing for the highly valuable privilege of using copyrighted music in their films. So, the statute was construed to preserve the benefits of copyright for the creators of music.
A.2.2.6 Motion Pictures Under the New Act of 1976. The general revision of the copyright law, P.L. 94-533, enacted on October 19, 1976, confirmed and embodied in the statute the rulings outlined above by which the earlier statutes had been adapted to the subsequently developed motion picture technology. Thus, under the new statute:
"Motion pictures" are listed among the categories of pro-
As for the use of other works, such as literary or drama-
The copyright in a motion picture embraces specifically
"perform" a work is defined (in sec. 101) as meaning, "in the case of a motion picture ... to show its images in any sequence or to make the sounds accompanying it audible."
The exclusive right "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies" (sec. 106) includes the recording of a musical or other work in a motion picture sound track, since "copies" are defined (in sec. 101) as "material objects in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."*
The compulsory license for the recording of music is confined to the making of "phonorecords" (sec. 115), and that term is defined as excluding the sounds "accompanying a motion picture."
So it is that the adaptation of the 1909 and earlier statutes to motion pictures is completed by the new copyright law of 1976.
A.2.3.1 Right to Record Copyrighted works. Devices for the recording and playing back of music and other sounds were developed late in the 19th century, and during the first few years of the 20th century the manufacture and sale of such recordings in the form of both phonograph records and piano rolls grew to a business of substantial volume. The copyright owners of music sought to subject the recording of their music in these new devices to their copyrights by instituting infringement suits, and by proposing, in the movement begun in 1905 to revise the copyright statutes, that the law be amended to accord them a new exclusive right to make recordings of their copyrighted works.
The most important of the infringement suits was the famous case of White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co., 209 U.S. 1, decided by the Supreme Court in 1908, to which
reference has been made above. The question at issue was whether perforated music rolls, by which copyrighted musical works could be played mechanically on player pianos,
* This definition of "copies" overturns the holding in the White-Smith
decision. And note how it seeks to anticipate future technologies for recording and reproducing images and sounds.
infringed the copyright owner's exclusive right of "copying" his music under the statute enacted in 1870. Holding that the piano roll was not a "copy" of the musical work within the meaning of the statute, the Supreme Court first referred to the earlier decisions of two lower courts and of an English court so holding, and pointed out that Congress had since amended the copyright law (in other respects) when it must have known of those decisions; from that the Supreme Court reasoned that "the omission of Congress to specifically legislate concerning (sound recordings) might well be taken to be an acquiescence in the judicial construction given to the copyright laws." The Supreme Court continued:
"When we turn to the consideration of the act it seems evident that Congress has dealt with the tangible thing, a copy of which is required to be filed with the Librarian of Congress, and whenever the words are used (copy or copies) they seem to refer to the term in its ordinary sense of indicating reproduction or duplication of the original..."
"The definition of 'copy' which most commends itself to our
Finally the Supreme Court observed:
"It may be true that the use of these perforated rolls, in the
Ina smuch as this decision of the Supreme Court in the White-Smith case has often been cited for the proposition that a reproduction of a work which is not visible to the human eye is not an infringement, it should be noted here that this proposition has been greatly modified, and eventually negated, by subsequent legislation and later court rulings, as we shall see.
The foregoing pronouncements in the White-Smith decision can be characterized as being not so much a statement of judicial philosophy concerning the adaptation of the copyright law to new technology, as it is an instance of the general principle of narrow judicial construction of statutes on the premise that new issues not specifically dealt with in a statute should be left for Congress to determine.
A philosophical view of how the copyright law should be adapted to new technology is enunciated in the concurring opinion of Justice Holmes in the White-Smith case. He began by saying:
"In view of the facts and opinions in this country and abroad to which the majority opinion has called attention I do not feel justified in dissenting from the judgment of the court, but the result is to give to copyright less scope than its rational significance and the ground on which it is granted seem to me to demand...
He then went on:
"The ground of this extraordinary right (i.e., copyright) is
As shown by the later decisions dealing with motion pictures, which were reviewed above, and by those relating to radio broadcasts, to be reviewed below, the philosophical approach of Justice Holmes in the