Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony 11 U.S. 53 (1884)
Sarony took a photograph of
Oscar Wilde. Burrow-Giles made copies of the photo. Sarony sued
Burrow-Giles for copyright infringement.
The Trial Court found for
Sarony. Burrow-Giles appealed.
Burrow-Giles argued that the
photograph could not be copyrighted because it was "not a writing
nor the production of an author."
17 U.S.C. §102(a) requires that a work be original.
Burrow-Giles argued that
Sarony didn't produce anything. He merely reproduced the exact features
of a natural object (namely Oscar Wilde).
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that a wide variety of things are subject to copyright, not just books.
Congress can authorize
copyright in all forms of writing "by which the ideas of the mind
of the author are given visible expression... so far as they are
representative of original intellectual conceptions of the author."
The Court found that Sarony
gave his "mental conception" form by posing Oscar Wilde, choosing
the lighting, wardrobe, etc. All of that made the photograph the
author's original work of art,
even though the photograph was mechanically produced.