Gibbs v. Buck, No. 276

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREED
Citation307 U.S. 66,59 S.Ct. 725,83 L.Ed. 1111
PartiesGIBBS, Attorney General of Florida, et al., v. BUCK et al
Docket NumberNo. 276
Decision Date17 April 1939

307 U.S. 66
59 S.Ct. 725
83 L.Ed. 1111
GIBBS, Attorney General of Florida, et al.,

v.

BUCK et al.

No. 276.
Argued Jan. 10, 1939.
Decided April 17, 1939.

Messrs. Tyrus A. Norwood, of Tallahassee, Fla., Lucien H. Boggs, of Jacksonville, Fla., and George C. Gibbs, of Tallahassee, Fla., for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 66-68 intentionally omitted]

Page 68

Messrs. Thomas G. Haight, of Jersey City, N.J., Louis D. Frohlich, of New York City, Frank Wideman, of Washington, D.C., and Herman Finkelstein, of New York City, for appellees.

Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an appeal from the order of a three-judge court refusing to dismiss a bill of complaint on motion for failure to set out facts sufficient to show Federal or equity jurisdiction, or to constitute a cause of action, and granting an interlocutory injunction against the enforcement of a Florida statute aimed at combinations fixing the price for the privilege of rendering privately or publicly for profit copyrighted musical compositions. Sec. 266, Jud.Code, 28 U.S.C.A. § 380.

The appellant, the state Attorney General and various State Attorneys, are officers of the State of Florida charged with the enforcement of the act. The appellees, complainants below, are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, an unincorporated association organized under the laws of the State of New York; Gene Buck as president of the Society; various corporations publishing musical compositions; a number of authors and composers of copyrighted music; and several next of kin of deceased composers and authors. This suit was brought by complainants on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, members of the Society, too numerous to make it practicable to join them as plaintiffs in a matter of common and general interest.1

One of the rights given by the Copyright Act is the exclusive right to perform copyrighted musical compositions in public for profit.2 The bill of complaint alleges that users of musical compositions had refused to recog-

Page 69

nize this statutory right and to pay royalties for public performances for profit, and that authors, composers and publishers were unable, individually, to enforce their exclusive right because of the expense of detecting and suing for infringement throughout the United States. The Society was founded in 1914 to license performance of copyrighted music for profit and otherwise protect the copyrights. The state statute was directed at organizations like the Society and became effective on June 9, 1937.3 So far as is important here, the statute makes it unlawful for owners of copyrighted musical compositions to combine into any corporation, association or other entity to fix license fees 'for any use or rendition of copyrighted vocal or instrumental musical compositions for private or public performance for profit,' when the members of the combination constitute 'a substantial number of the persons, firms or corporations within the United States' owning musical copyrights. It declares the combination an unlawful monopoly, the price-fixing in restraint of trade, and the collection of license fees and all contracts by the combination illegal.

The bill attacked the statute as contrary to the Constitution and laws of the United States and the constitution of Florida. More specifically, it urged that the law impinged upon rights given by the Copyright Act of 1909, deprived complainants of rights without due process of law and without the equal protection of the laws, impaired the obligation of contracts already executed, and operated as an ex post facto law.

There was a formal allegation that the matter in controversy exceeded $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs. In addition, the bill alleged that the three publishers owned copyrights of a value in excess of $1,000,000 while each of the individual complainants owned copyrights

Page 70

worth in excess of $100,000; that it would cost each individual more than $10,000 to create an agency in Florida to protect himself against infringement by unauthorized public performances for profit, to issue licenses and to check on the accuracy of uses reported; that fees collected in 1936 in Florida amounted to $59,306.81 and that similar sums were expected in the future; and that in 1936 each of the three publishers received more than $50,000 from the Society and each individual more than $5,000.

A motion for a temporary injunction was made on February 7, 1938, the same day the bill was filed. Voluminous affidavits were presented in support of the motion. They tend to substantiate the allegations of the complaint on the value of the copyrights and the income from the Society. Each publisher posed that it had received more than $50,000 from the Society in 1936, that its contract with the Society had a value in excess of $200,000, and that to fix prices on each composition for each use in Florida would require an expenditure of more than $25,000. The affidavits of the individuals showed annual incomes to them from the Society of from $3,000 to $9,000; contracts with the Society which the affiants valued in the thousands of dollars and an expense, in one instance, as high as $5,000 to comply with the requirements of the Florida statute.

On March 3, 1938, the appellants moved to dismiss on several grounds: (1) absence of jurisdictional amount; (2) failure to state a cause of action; (3) want of equity and other objections not strongly pressed at this time.

The district court granted an interlocutory injunction and denied the motion to dismiss the bill. It thought that great damage would result unless the injunction issued and that there was grave doubt of the constitutionality of the act. Its findings of fact and conclusions of law were filed about a month and a half after the

Page 71

per curiam decision. It found that 'the matter in controversy exceeds $3,000 exclusive of interest and costs.'

Federal Jurisdiction.—The issue was raised in the lower court by a motion to dismiss on the ground that it affirmatively appears 'from the allegations of the bill * * * that the jurisdictional amount of $3,000.00 * * * is not involved * * * in that it appears that the suit is brought for the benefit of the members of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers * * * and it does not affirmatively appear that the loss of any member of said society due to the enforcement of (the challenged act) would amount to the * * * necessary jurisdictional amount.' Other jurisdictional averments of the motion state that the Society cannot suffer any loss from the legislation because it affirmatively appears that the Society divides all its proceeds from licensing between its members and affiliates and 'therefore, the loss, if any, sustained due to the enforcement of said Florida laws would fall on the members of the Society, and not on the Society itself.' Finally the motion sets out the lack of jurisdiction because it affirmatively appears from the allegations of the bill that the jurisdictional amount is not involved 'because the plaintiffs have not shown the extent of loss or damage they would suffer by reason of the enforcement of said State law, as compared with the amount of profit they would make by the non-enforcement of said law.' As the form of the motion on the jurisdiction admitted the bill's statements, it was submitted on the allegations without the production of any evidence.

This method of testing the jurisdiction properly raises the question. No issue is made as to the standing of the Society or its members to sue. The basis of the attack is that there is a lack of the essential allegations as to the value of the matter in controversy. As there is no statutory direction for procedure upon an issue of ju-

Page 72

risdiction, the mode of its determination is left to the trial court.4 Both complainants and defendants were content to rest upon the bill and motion.

The bill alleges that the value of the matter in dispute exceeds the jurisdictional amount. Such a general allegation when not traversed is sufficient, unless it is qualified by others which so detract from it that the court must dismiss sua sponte or on defendants' motion.5 In this instance, the allegation is, in effect, traversed by the language of the motion which asserts that no plaintiff has shown loss from enforcement equal to the jurisdictional amount. No other allegations are denied. By this method of attack the facts set out in the bill are left unchallenged for the court to accept as true without further proof. The burden of showing by the admitted facts that the federal court has jurisdiction rests upon the complainants. If there were any doubt of the good faith of the allegations, the court might have called for their justification by evidence.6 In view of the unchallenged facts, federal jurisdiction will be adequately established, if it appears that for any member, who is a party, the matter in controversy is of the value of the jurisdictional amount,7 or, if to the aggregate of all the members in this representative suit, the matter in controversy is of that value.

This Society, an unincorporated association with a membership of more than a thousand of the leading authors, composers and publishers of music, has received by assignment and possesses, for a five-year period which covers the time here involved, the 'exclusive right to

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publicly perform for profit' musical compositions owned by its members. Licenses are issued by the Society to users in Florida 'for the public performance for profit' of these compositions. After payment of expenses and royalties for similar rights to foreign associates, and retention of certain reserves, the receipts from licenses are divided among the members in amounts and by classifications fixed by the articles of association and the Board of Directors. The Society...

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491 practice notes
  • Smith v. Abbate
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 13, 1961
    ...56 S.Ct. 780, 784, 785, 80 L.Ed. 1135; KVOS, Inc. v. Associated Press, 299 U.S. 269, 278 57 S.Ct. 197, 200, 81 L.Ed. 183; Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 729, 83 L.Ed. None of the claims against the individual defendants equal $10,000. It is conceded by the plaintiff that the ......
  • Gomez v. Wilson, No. 71-1484.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1973
    ...supra note 41, 298 U.S. at 189, 56 S.Ct. 780; Buck v. Gallagher, 307 U.S. 95, 102, 59 S.Ct. 740, 83 L.Ed. 1128 (1939); Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939); KVOS, Inc. v. Associated Press, 299 U.S. 269, 278, 57 S.Ct. 197, 81 L.Ed. 183 56 There is considerable d......
  • NATIONAL ASS'N FOR ADVANCE. OF COLORED PEOPLE v. Patty, Civ. A. No. 2435
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 21, 1958
    ...Glenwood Light & Water Co. v. Mutual Light, Heat & Power Co., 239 U.S. 121, 125, 126, 36 S.Ct. 30, 60 L.Ed. 174; Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 74, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111; American R. Co. of Porto Rico v. South Porto Rico Sugar Co., 1 Cir., 293 F. 670, 673; cf. McNutt v. General Motors Ac......
  • Ali v. Carnegie Inst. Washington, Case No. 3:12–cv–01764–SI.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • November 25, 2013
    ...discretion of the trial court. See Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Assocs., Inc., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir.1977) (citing Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 71–72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939)). If a court limits the presentation of relevant evidence to “affidavits plus discovery materials,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
491 cases
  • Smith v. Abbate
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • December 13, 1961
    ...56 S.Ct. 780, 784, 785, 80 L.Ed. 1135; KVOS, Inc. v. Associated Press, 299 U.S. 269, 278 57 S.Ct. 197, 200, 81 L.Ed. 183; Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 729, 83 L.Ed. None of the claims against the individual defendants equal $10,000. It is conceded by the plaintiff that the ......
  • Gomez v. Wilson, No. 71-1484.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1973
    ...supra note 41, 298 U.S. at 189, 56 S.Ct. 780; Buck v. Gallagher, 307 U.S. 95, 102, 59 S.Ct. 740, 83 L.Ed. 1128 (1939); Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939); KVOS, Inc. v. Associated Press, 299 U.S. 269, 278, 57 S.Ct. 197, 81 L.Ed. 183 56 There is considerable d......
  • NATIONAL ASS'N FOR ADVANCE. OF COLORED PEOPLE v. Patty, Civ. A. No. 2435
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 21, 1958
    ...Glenwood Light & Water Co. v. Mutual Light, Heat & Power Co., 239 U.S. 121, 125, 126, 36 S.Ct. 30, 60 L.Ed. 174; Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 74, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111; American R. Co. of Porto Rico v. South Porto Rico Sugar Co., 1 Cir., 293 F. 670, 673; cf. McNutt v. General Motors Ac......
  • Ali v. Carnegie Inst. Washington, Case No. 3:12–cv–01764–SI.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • November 25, 2013
    ...discretion of the trial court. See Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Assocs., Inc., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir.1977) (citing Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 71–72, 59 S.Ct. 725, 83 L.Ed. 1111 (1939)). If a court limits the presentation of relevant evidence to “affidavits plus discovery materials,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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