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Court of Cassation on telegraphic news, Paris (1861)

Source: Bibliothèque universitaire de Poitiers (SCD): Dalloz, Jurisprudence générale. Recueil Périodique et critique de jurisprudence, de legislation et de doctrine, 1862.1.136

Court of Cassation on telegraphic news, Paris (1861), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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            Chapter 1 Page 1 of 3 total

136                                    FIRST PART

[2nd column:]


      Telegraphic news reports bringing to the notice of the public political,
scientific and literary news, cannot be considered works of the mind, and are there-
fore not susceptible of literary property (Law of 19 July 1793) (1);
      Consequently, an agency created for the purpose of communicating to
newspapers who engage its services telegraphic news reports which are
transmitted to it from various countries by paid correspondents, does
not have the right to prevent other newspapers from reproducing the same
news reports after they have been published in the subscribing newspaper (2);
      And such an act cannot either be qualified as unfair competition, entitling
one to sue for damages, since the non-subscribing newspapers which in this
way benefited for free from the news reports published by the subscribing
newspaper, did not use any undue manoeuvre to obtain this advantage, and
they did not, say, bring forward or delay the dates on which their issues
are normally published.

(Havas, Bullier & Co. v. Gounouilhou.)

      Messrs Havas, Bullier & Co., have set up in Paris an agency for the
purpose of supplying newspapers which are subscribed to this agency, with
the news items which are transmitted to it by its correspondents from the
main cities of Europe by means of electrical telegraphy. - Amongst the
newspapers which have signed up for a subscription with the Havas Agency,
is the newspaper Le Peuple from Bordeaux. – Because La Gironde, a
non-subscribing newspaper which is also published in Bordeaux, coming out
a few hours after Le Peuple, has been literally reproducing on its pages
news items which came from the Havas Agency's correspondents, without
even acknowledging the source, Messrs Havas, Bullier & Co. decided
to lodge a claim against M. Gounouilhou, the manager of La Gironde, in order
to have such reproduction prohibited and to obtain compensation for
damage caused to the plaintiffs in the past.
      A decision of the Commercial Tribunal of Bordeaux, dated 11 January 1861,
accepted this claim for the following reasons: - « Whereas it is indisputable, in
theory, that the news of an event is a thing of the public domain, belonging to
everyone; but it is equally certain that once this news is gathered by an
individual, subjected by him to a certain editing, and transmitted by him in some
way or other from a more or less remote location, it becomes his thing, his property;
and of this immaterial thing one should say exactly what one says about an ownerless
object on which man lays his hand for the first time, an object which he fashions
by his work, recreates by his industry, his intelligence or activity (Troplong,
Prescript., art. 2219, N°3); - Whereas it is well-known that the plaintiffs,
benefiting from the promptness

(1 and 2) This important decision is in accordance with the rules which determine the
constitutive features of works of the mind to which the guarantee established by the
law of 19-24 July 1793 applies. – On works which must necessarily fall within the public
domain, as soon as they appear or are published, see what is said about this in Jur.
, v. Propriété litt., n°119.


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