161 F.2d 406 (2nd Cir. 1946), 29, Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. v. Jerry Vogel Music Co.

Docket Nº:29, 20280.
Citation:161 F.2d 406, 71 U.S.P.Q. 286, 73 U.S.P.Q. 5
Party Name:SHAPIRO, BERNSTEIN & CO., Inc., v. JERRY VOGEL MUSIC CO., Inc.
Case Date:December 10, 1946
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 406

161 F.2d 406 (2nd Cir. 1946)

71 U.S.P.Q. 286, 73 U.S.P.Q. 5

SHAPIRO, BERNSTEIN & CO., Inc.,

v.

JERRY VOGEL MUSIC CO., Inc.

Nos. 29, No. 20280.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

December 10, 1946

On Clarification of Opinion March 18, 1947.

Where judgment was reversed and remanded "for entry of a judgment consistent with this opinion", district judge was authorized to enter any judgment which he thought consistent with opinion, and could reconsider a portion of the original judgment which was not discussed by Circuit Court of Appeals.

Page 407

O'Brien, Driscoll & Raftery, of New York City (Arthur F. Driscoll and Milton M. Rosenbloom, both F New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

House, Grossman, Vorhaus & Hemley, of New York City (Leo J. Rosett, Joseph Fischer, and Alfred Beekman, all of New York City, of counsel), for appellee.

Before L. HAND, SWAN, and FRANK, Circuit Judges.

SWAN, Circuit Judge.

This litigation involves the ownership of the renewals of three copyrights of a popular song. In 1911 Ernie Burnett wrote the music and Maybelle Watson, who was then his wife, wrote the words of a song entitled 'Melancholy.' This song was copyrighted on October 31, 1911, in Burnett's name as an unpublished work under section 11 of the Act of 1909, Burnett's name as an unpublished work under section 11 of the Act of 1909, 17 U.S.C.A. 11. This version of the song was never published. During the final year of the copyright term, Maybelle Watson, who was then Mrs. Bergman, as author of the words, and Mr. Burnett, as author of the

Page 408

music, renewed the copyright pursuant to section 23, 17 U.S.C.A. 23, and assigned their respective renewals to the plaintiff. The district court held that the plaintiff was the proprietor of the renewed copyright of the unpublished song. The appellant does not question this ruling.

In 1912 Burnett offered to sell the unpublished song to Theron C. Bennett, a musical publisher. Mr. Bennett liked the melody but not the words of the song. With Burnett's consent Bennett engaged George A. Norton to write new words. Norton did so, 1 and by a document dated September 23, 1912, assigned his lyrics to Bennett 'for the original copyright term together with all renewals or extensions of said copyrights thereof.' 2 By an assignment which carried the statement, 'Lyrics now by Geo. A. Norton, ' Burnett transferred to Bennett the 1911 copyright. Being thus the owner of Burnett's music and Norton's words, Bennett published the song on October 25, 1912 with the following copyright notice:

'Copyright MCMXI by Ernie Burnett

'Copyright transferred MCMXII to Theron C. Bennett, Denver, Colo.'

On December 2, 1939, Burnett registered in the Copyright Office claim for renewal of copyright of the 1912 version of the song. He assigned the renewal to the plaintiff. The district court held that Burnett's renewal was ineffective and that the lyrics written by Norton are in the public domain. This ruling the appellant challenges, contending that Burnett's renewal was effective and inured to the benefit of Norton's son, 3 under whose assignment the appellant claims co-ownership with the appellee of the renewal copyright of the 1912 version of the song.

A third version of the song was published and copyrighted by Bennett on November 5, 1914, under the title 'My Melancholy Baby.' This version was composed of Norton's words and Burnett's music, with an added chorus in march time. During the final year of the copyright term, claims for renewal were made by Burnett, who assigned his renewal to the plaintiff, and by Norton's son, who assigned his rights to the appellant. The district court held the son's attempted renewal invalid and ruled that the plaintiff was the proprietor of the renewed copyright in the music and the title of the 1914 version but that no copyright protection exists for Norton's lyrics again published in that version. The appellant raises no question as to the 1914 renewal.

From a judgment declaring the rights of the plaintiff, granting an injunction against their infringement, dismissing the defendant's counterclaim, and awarding the plaintiff an attorney's fee of $1, 000, the defendant has appealed.

The appellant claims no interest in the renewal of the 1911 copyright on the unpublished song. It does claim co-ownership with the plaintiff in the renewal of the 1912 copyright of the published song. This involves two questions, (1) whether Bennett obtained a valid copyright on the 1912 version, and (2) whether Burnett and Norton were joint authors so that Burnett's renewal of the 1912 copyright inured to the benefit of Norton's son and passed by the latter's assignment to the appellant.

As to the first question the appellee takes the position that the 1912 version was never validly copyrighted because the copyright notice published by Bennett was insufficient; hence the Norton words are in the public domain. In our opinion this contention cannot be successfully maintained. Section 6 of the Act, 17 U.S.C.A. § 6, provided that

'Compilations * * * or other versions of * * * copyrighted works when

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produced with the consent of the proprietor of the copyright in such works, * * * shall be regarded as new works subject to copyright under the provisions of this title; * * *

Bennett was proprietor of both the old music and of the new words produced by Norton with the consent of Burnett. Assuming that this combination was entitled by section 6 to be copyrighted as a new work- a question hereafter discussed- then under section 9 of the Act, 17 U.S.C.A. § 9, all Bennett had to do to secure copyright was to publish it with the notice of copyright required by section 18, 17 U.S.C.A. § 18, and to deposit in the Copyright Office two copies of the published work as required by section 12, 17 U.S.C.A. § 12. 4 Section 18 provides that:

'The notice of copyright * * * shall consist either of the word 'Copyright' or the abbreviation 'Corp.', accompanied by the name of the copyright proprietor, and if the work be a printed literary, musical or dramatic work, the notice shall include also the year in which the copyright was secured by publication.'

Bennett did not literally comply with these requirements: although his name appeared, the notice did not state directly that the copyrighted the song in 1912. His notice was of Burnett's copyright of the 1911 version and its transfer to him in 1912. Nevertheless it is apparent that he intended to copyright the 1912 version, for that was the song he was publishing. His intent being plain to copyright the published song, the fact that the notice impliedly attributed the authorship of both music and words to Burnett is, we think,...

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