Page:United States Reports, Volume 209.djvu/37

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209 U.S.
Opinion of the Court.

of the proper instruments make drawings indicating the perforations, which are afterwards outlined and cut upon the rolls in such wise as to reproduce, with the aid of the other mechanism, the music which is recorded in the copyrighted sheets.

The learned counsel for the parties to this action advance opposing theories as to the nature and extent of the copyright given by statutory laws enacted by Congress for the protection of copyright, and a determination of which is the true one will go far to decide the rights of the parties in this case. On behalf of the appellant it is insisted that it is the intention of the copyright act to protect the intellectual conception which has resulted in the compilation of notes which, when properly played, produces the melody which is the real invention of the composer. It is insisted that this is the thing which Congress intended to protect, and that the protection covers all means of expression of the order of notes which produce the air or melody which the composer has invented.

Music, it is argued, is intended for the ear as writing is for the eye, and that it is the intention of the copyright act to prevent the multiplication of every means of reproducing the music of the composer to the ear.

On the other hand, it is contended that while it is true that copyright statutes are intended to reward mental creations or conceptions, that the extent of this protection is a matter of statutory law, and that it has been extended only to the tangible results of mental conception, and that only the tangible thing is dealt with by the law, and its multiplication or reproduction is all that is protected by the statute.

Before considering the construction of the statute as an independent question the appellee invokes the doctrine of stare decisis in its favor, and it is its contention that in all the cases in which this question has been up for judicial consideration it has been held that such mechanical producers of musical tones as are involved in this case have not been considered to be within the protection of the copyright act; and that, if within the power of Congress to extend protection to such subjects,