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Desny v. Wilder

Supreme Court of California
46 Cal. 2d 715, 299 P.2d 257 (1956)


Desny (plaintiff) had an idea for a literary composition about the life and death of Floyd Collins. Desny called the offices of Paramount Pictures Corporation (Paramount) and asked to speak with director Billy Wilder (collectively, defendants). Wilder’s secretary insisted that Desny tell her why he was calling so Desny revealed his idea and read a synopsis of the story to the secretary. Desny told the secretary that Wilder and Paramount could use the story only if they paid him reasonable value for it. The secretary responded to Desny that if Wilder used the story, “naturally we will pay you for it.” The next year Paramount produced a photoplay that “closely parallel[ed]” Desny’s synopsis. Desny brought suit, seeking to recover compensation for his idea. The trial court awarded Wilder summary judgment. Desny appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Schauer, J.)

Concurrence (Carter, J.)

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