BYRNE, District Judge.
The plaintiff is the author and copyright owner of a play entitled "The Last Mile". On July 21, 1931, he entered into a written agreement with defendants' assignors, whereby rights to deal in motion picture versions of the play were transferred to defendants' assignors. On November 25, 1950, the defendants caused to be broadcast over television station KTTV a motion picture film of the play. Plaintiff claims infringement of his copyright and damages resulting therefrom.
The sole issue in the case is whether the contract of July 21, 1931, transferred to the purchaser the right to televise a motion picture produced under the provisions of the contract.
The pertinent provisions of the contract read as follows:
It will be observed that the owners grant "* * * the sole and exclusive right throughout the world to make * * * exhibit, * * * motion picture versions of the said dramatic composition * * * in any manner and method now or any time hereafter ever known or made available * * *." Television, being a presently known method of exhibiting motion pictures,
We now turn to the reservation clause. There are four specific classes of rights reserved, (a) production rights on the spoken stage with living actors, (b) publication rights, (c) television rights unaccompanied by a visual representation of the play, (d) the right to transmit or otherwise make available and visible performances of the said play, direct from living actors in a place other than that in which the actors are physically present.
There is no dispute regarding (a), (b), or (d). The plaintiff concedes that (d) encompasses only "live action television" and does not include the exhibition of a motion picture on television; but, says the plaintiff, the right to exhibit motion pictures on television is reserved in (c) because a motion picture is not a visual representation of the play. The weakness of the plaintiff's case is disclosed by this contention. That a motion picture of a play exhibited on television is a visual representation of the play cannot be open to question. Every picture, whether motion or otherwise, is a visual representation of the thing it depicts. The use of the word "unaccompanied" in the phrase "television rights unaccompanied by a visual representation of the play" specifically excludes the televising of motion pictures from the television rights reserved by the grantors.
Just what uses of television were foreseeable in 1931 is open to conjecture, but conceivably the parties could have contemplated recitals of the play without the picture. That would be an audible representation unaccompanied by a visual representation of the play. We do know that the right to present a visual representation of the play was not reserved under (c) because the parties so stated in unequivocal words. The only right to transmit a visible representation of the play by television which was reserved was the right to transmit "live television" as spelled out in (d).
It is significant that, of all of the rights reserved by the grantor, only the right to transmit "live television" was restricted. The grantor could not exercise his right to transmit "live television" until the expiration of fifteen years from the date of the agreement. The apparent purpose of this restriction was to protect the grantees' motion picture rights from "live television" competition for a period of fifteen years.
The obvious reason for applying the fifteen year restriction "to live television" only, was because it was considered the most serious competition to the exhibition of motion pictures. If it were intended to leave in the grantor the right to exhibit motion pictures on television, the parties unquestionably would have applied the fifteen year restriction to such right. Because the television rights reserved in (c) were in the nature of radio broadcasts unaccompanied by a picture, is precisely why the fifteen year restriction was not attached.
The plaintiff contends that because the grantors warrant that they are the owners of the television rights as well as the motion picture rights and agree "that when they shall determine to sell the television rights, they will give the purchaser the right to acquire such rights", it was their intention to reserve all television rights. The fallacy of this reasoning is apparent. The television rights which were reserved and which they agreed to make available to the purchaser when they determined to sell, were the television rights they spelled out in the reservations clause, viz.: "live television" and television rights unaccompanied by a visual representation of the play. If it were the intention to reserve all television rights, the parties would have so stated and would not have limited the reservation to television rights unaccompanied by a visual representation of the play. It is quite obvious that the reason television rights accompanied by a visual representation of the play were not reserved was because such a reservation would conflict with the right granted the purchaser to exhibit motion pictures in "any manner or method now or any time hereafter ever known or made available."
Judgment will be for the defendant. Counsel is requested to prepare and submit findings and judgment in accordance with Local Rule 7.