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White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co.

209 U.S. 1, 28 S. Ct. 319, 52 L. Ed. 655 (1908)

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White-Smith Music Publishing Co. v. Apollo Co.

United States Supreme Court

209 U.S. 1, 28 S. Ct. 319, 52 L. Ed. 655 (1908)

Facts

Adam Geibel obtained copyrights to two songs. Apollo Co. (defendant) sold pianos and perforated rolls of music for use on pianos. The perforated rolls were a mechanical attachment that used a piano’s ducts and air pressure to play the melody of Geibel’s two songs. The music could not be read on the rolls, and the rolls required an experienced musician to play the songs correctly. White-Smith Music Publishing Co. (White-Smith) (plaintiff), Geibel’s assignee of the songs’ copyright, sued Apollo in federal district court alleging that Apollo had infringed on White-Smith’s copyrights by printing and selling copies of the songs. Apollo argued that it had not copied the musical composition, because the tool presented the same songs in an intangible format that merely allowed an experienced musician to play the songs. The district court held in Apollo’s favor. The court of appeals affirmed. White-Smith appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Day, J.)

Concurrence (Holmes, J.)

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