Page:United States Reports, Volume 209.djvu/40

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14
 
OCTOBER TERM, 1907.
 
209 U.S.
Opinion of the Court.

enable the machines or instruments to produce the music indicated on the plaintiff’s sheets. In this sense the defendant’s perforated rolls have been copies from the plaintiff’s sheets.

“But is this the kind of copying which is prohibited by the copyright act; or rather is the perforated sheet made as above mentioned a copy of the sheet of music from which it is made? Is it a copy at all? Is it a copy within the meaning of the copyright act? A sheet of music is treated in the copyright act as if it were a book or sheet of letter press. Any mode of copying such a thing, whether by printing, writing, photography, or by some other method not yet invented, would no doubt be copying. So, perhaps, might a perforated sheet of paper to be sung or played from in the same way as sheets of music are sung or played from. But to play an instrument from a sheet of music which appears to the eye is one thing; to play an instrument with a perforated sheet which itself forms part of the mechanism which produces the music is quite another thing.”

Since these cases were decided Congress has repeatedly had occasion to amend the copyright law. The English cases, the decision of the District Court of Appeals, and Judge Colt’s decision must have been well known to the members of Congress; and although the manufacture of mechanical musical instruments had not grown to the proportions which they have since attained they were well known, and the omission of Congress to specifically legislate concerning them might well be taken to be an acquiescence in the judicial construction given to the copyright laws.

This country was not a party to the Berne convention of 1886, concerning international copyright, in which it was specifically provided:

“It is understood that the manufacture and sale of instruments serving to reproduce mechanically the airs of music borrowed from the private domain are not considered as constituting musical infringement.”

But the proceedings of this convention were doubtless well