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Sidis v. F-R Publishing Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
113 F.2d 806 (2d Cir. 1940)


Facts

William James Sidis (plaintiff) was a child prodigy in mathematics. At the age of eleven, he gave a lecture on Four-Dimensional Bodies to a group of distinguished mathematics professors. At the age of sixteen, he graduated from Harvard College. Both events received significant press coverage, and Sidis was regarded as a public figure in which the general public had significant interest. After his childhood success, however, he tried to downplay his achievements and went to great lengths to live in obscurity. He lived alone in a small apartment and worked as a common clerk. In 1937, the New Yorker, a magazine published by F-R Publishing Corp (F-R) (defendant) published a story on former public figures, titled “Where Are They Now?” The article commented extensively on Sidis’ desire to remain obscure and the lengths to which he went to hide from his past as a childhood prodigy. It described his dress, manner of speaking, living accommodations, and occupation as a clerk. The article was not derogatory toward Sidis, but represented him as having a “child-like charm.” Sidis brought suit against F-R for invasion of his right of privacy, infringement of his civil rights, and malicious libel. The trial court granted F-R’s motion to dismiss on the right of privacy and civil rights claims, and Sidis appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Clark, J.)

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