Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, Civ. A. No. 116.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtStanley B. Frosh, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff
Citation177 F. Supp. 601
PartiesPUBLIC AFFAIRS ASSOCIATES, INC., Plaintiff, v. Vice Admiral Hyman G. RICKOVER, Defendant.
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 116.
Decision Date23 October 1959

177 F. Supp. 601

PUBLIC AFFAIRS ASSOCIATES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
Vice Admiral Hyman G. RICKOVER, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 116.

United States District Court District of Columbia.

October 23, 1959.


Stanley B. Frosh, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff.

177 F. Supp. 602

Joseph A. McDonald, Washington, D. C., for defendant.

HOLTZOFF, District Judge.

This is the trial of an action for a declaratory judgment. The case has been submitted on an agreed statement of facts supplemented by a number of documents that were introduced in evidence. The suit is brought by a publishing house against a Vice Admiral of the United States Navy, to secure an adjudication that would declare in effect that the defendant has no property right in his speeches; that they are not subject to copyright; that any one is free to publish them at will without paying him any royalty or other compensation; and that he may not cause any person to be restrained from reproducing them, in whole or in part. The basic question presented is whether Government officials have a literary property in their public utterances and publications, and may secure for themselves the benefits of the copyright law and, if so, under what circumstances and to what extent.

The pertinent facts are as follows. The defendant, a Vice Admiral of the United States Navy, occasionally delivered speeches on matters of public interest. Some of them dealt with ideas that the Admiral developed in connection with his activities as a Naval officer. The plaintiff is a publishing house located in Washington, D. C. On October 29, 1958, the plaintiff wrote to the defendant requesting copies of two of his recent speeches indicating that the writer of the letter intended to quote from them in a forthcoming book. The defendant's secretary replied, enclosing copies of the two speeches, but stated that permission to quote from them could not be granted because they were to be included in a book to be published in the near future. The plaintiff responded by letter stating that the speeches were made by the Admiral in his official capacity and that it was not proper to restrict their use in any way. In addition in a telephone conversation with the Admiral, the plaintiff indicated a desire to publish the Admiral's speeches. The defendant's publishers then gave formal written notice to the plaintiff that action would be brought if the plaintiff were to infringe defendant's legal rights.

These exchanges finally led to the institution of the present suit for a declaratory judgment. It is the contention of the plaintiff that since the speeches were made on topics that were the outgrowth of the defendant's Government activities and in part prepared on what the plaintiff calls "Government time" and with the aid of Government facilities, he has no literary property in his speeches and may not secure a copyright on them, but that they are in the public domain and are available without restriction to any one who desires to reproduce them. It is urged by the defendant, on the other hand, that since the writing and delivery of the speeches in question were no part of his official duties, he has a literary property in them to the same extent that any one else has in his own utterances, that he may secure copyright protection as to them, and may bar others from disseminating them.

The evidence shows that between October 20, 1955 and January 16, 1959, when this suit was instituted, the Admiral delivered twenty-three speeches on various topics before numerous organizations and groups. Some of the addresses dealt with such subjects as:

"Nuclear Power"
"Metallurgy in Atomic Power"
"The Challenge of Nuclear Power"
"The Naval Revolution"

and similar topics. Others were devoted to the field of education. Some of the titles in this group are:

"The Education of Our Talented Children"
"The Talented Mind — An Opportunity and an Obligation"
"The Balance Sheet on Education"
"Education in the Nuclear Age"
"European and American Secondary Schools — A Comparison".
177 F. Supp. 603

Mimeographed copies of each of the speeches were generally distributed at or about the time of their delivery to interested persons. Some of them were later published in book form, the book, of course, being registered for copyright. Subsequently to December 1, 1958, the Admiral adopted the practice of placing a copyright notice on mimeographed copies of his speeches, obtaining a copyright on each of his addresses at the time of delivery.

Although Government officers and employees have been the authors of speeches, articles, addresses, pamphlets, books, and other writings on numerous subjects at different times from the early years of the Republic, the question here presented does not appear to have been raised in any reported case decided by any appellate court. In numerous instances the author secured a copyright on his literary product and presumably received either royalties or other compensation in connection with its circulation, but it does not appear insofar as reported cases are concerned that any publishing house has ever before contended that it is free to re-publish such material without any compensation to the author and without his permission or consent.

Some assistance can indeed be found in litigation involving patented inventions made by Government officers or employees.1 The two types of property are analogous. Each is intangible. In each instance the property is an idea in its ultimate analysis. To be sure, technically a patent covers not the idea of the inventor or discoverer, but its concrete embodiment. Nevertheless, the embodiment is the product of an idea. So, too, a copyright covers the literary form of an idea. True, there is a distinction in the manner in which the Government deals with patents and copyrights in respect to itself. It frequently obtains patents on developments originating in Government research laboratories. On the other hand, as a matter of policy, it does not secure any copyrights on publications issued by it. The distinction is due to an Act of Congress which expressly precludes the Government from procuring copyrights, but places in the public domain the literary products originally owned by it.2

Publications emanating from Government officers and employees may be divided into three categories. The first group consists of publications prepared by a Government officer or employee as part of his official duties and issued by the Government as a public document. In other words in such cases the officer or employee is hired to write for the Government. Countless examples of publications in this class can be found: maps prepared by employees of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Geological Survey; manuals issued by various Government departments, such as the Manual of Courts-Martial; bulletins of the Department of Agriculture; histories of military or naval operations in which the United States participated, prepared by a Division of Military or Naval History of the Department of Defense and...

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8 practice notes
  • Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., Nos. 75-1203 and 75-1202
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 12 de outubro de 1977
    ...may be protected. King v. Mister Maestro, Inc., 224 F.Supp. 101 (S.D.N.Y.1963). See also Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, 177 F.Supp. 601 (D.D.C.1960), rev'd, 109 U.S.App.D.C. 128, 284 F.2d 262 (1960), rev'd, 369 U.S. 111, 82 S.Ct. 580, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 (1962), on remand, 268 F.Sup......
  • International Tape Manufacturers Ass'n v. Gerstein, No. 72-164-Civ-JE.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • 12 de junho de 1972
    ...Cir. 1955), on which defendants heavily rely was decided prior to Sears and Compco. 77 224 F.Supp. 101 (S.D.N.Y.1963). 78 Ibid., 107. 79 177 F.Supp. 601 (D.D.C.1960), rev. 109 U.S.App.D.C. 128, 284 F.2d 262 (1960), rev. 369 U.S. 111, 82 S.Ct. 580, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 80 Rickover, 284 F.2d 270-271......
  • Williams v. Weisser
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 de junho de 1969
    ...subjects taught. The parties make much over the protracted Rickover litigation. In Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, D.C., 177 F.Supp. 601, 604, the trial court held that Admiral Rickover could legally copyright speeches 'that have some bearing on, or that arise out of his offici......
  • Public Affairs Associates, Inc v. Rickover Rickover v. Public Affairs Associates, Inc, Nos. 36
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 5 de março de 1962
    ...plaintiff's use of his speeches, the plaintiff sought this declaratory relief. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the merits, 177 F.Supp. 601. The Court of Appeals (one judge dissenting), agreeing with the District Court that the defendant had, as to his uncopyrighted speeches, t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., Nos. 75-1203 and 75-1202
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 12 de outubro de 1977
    ...may be protected. King v. Mister Maestro, Inc., 224 F.Supp. 101 (S.D.N.Y.1963). See also Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, 177 F.Supp. 601 (D.D.C.1960), rev'd, 109 U.S.App.D.C. 128, 284 F.2d 262 (1960), rev'd, 369 U.S. 111, 82 S.Ct. 580, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 (1962), on remand, 268 F.Sup......
  • International Tape Manufacturers Ass'n v. Gerstein, No. 72-164-Civ-JE.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • 12 de junho de 1972
    ...Cir. 1955), on which defendants heavily rely was decided prior to Sears and Compco. 77 224 F.Supp. 101 (S.D.N.Y.1963). 78 Ibid., 107. 79 177 F.Supp. 601 (D.D.C.1960), rev. 109 U.S.App.D.C. 128, 284 F.2d 262 (1960), rev. 369 U.S. 111, 82 S.Ct. 580, 7 L.Ed.2d 604 80 Rickover, 284 F.2d 270-271......
  • Williams v. Weisser
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 5 de junho de 1969
    ...subjects taught. The parties make much over the protracted Rickover litigation. In Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover, D.C., 177 F.Supp. 601, 604, the trial court held that Admiral Rickover could legally copyright speeches 'that have some bearing on, or that arise out of his offici......
  • Public Affairs Associates, Inc v. Rickover Rickover v. Public Affairs Associates, Inc, Nos. 36
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 5 de março de 1962
    ...plaintiff's use of his speeches, the plaintiff sought this declaratory relief. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the merits, 177 F.Supp. 601. The Court of Appeals (one judge dissenting), agreeing with the District Court that the defendant had, as to his uncopyrighted speeches, t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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