De Sylva v. Ballentine

RESPONDENT: Ballentine

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1955-1956)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

ARGUED: Apr 25, 1956 / Apr 26, 1956
DECIDED: Jun 11, 1956

Facts of the case


Media for De Sylva v. Ballentine

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1956 in De Sylva v. Ballentine

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 1956 in De Sylva v. Ballentine

Earl Warren:

-- Marie De Sylva versus Marie Ballentine.

Mr. Fink.

Max Fink:

May it please the Court.

Mr. George G. De Sylva was a composer and author of songs.

In his earlier years, some of his compositions became very important.

Some of those were renewed during his lifetime and some of his songs were not renewed within the statute, Section 24 of Title 17 of the Copyright Act.

And it is those compositions which were not renewed during the lifetime of the decedent which concern us in this case.

The questions presented here are as follows.

First, does the surviving spouse, in this case the widow, take those renewed copyrights granted by Congress to certain dependents of the deceased author?

Does the widow take those renewals to the exclusion of the child or children?

And secondly, is an acknowledged illegitimate child, a child within the meaning of Section 24 of the Act.

I believe it would be appropriate to say and the record reveals that the child here was not just an illegitimate child out of the blue.

This child enjoyed the company and society and the love of his father, and in respect to the law of California, is an acknowledged child, formally fully acknowledged.

The issue as to whether or not this child was fully legitimated, was one that was not admitted, and for that reason that issue was not decided in the trial court because the court felt that under the facts of the case which were admitted and stipulated in most instances that the child was a child within the meaning of Section 24 of the Act.

Felix Frankfurter:

Are you going to argue whether under the copyright statute the scope of the meaning of the content of "for children" as a matter of state law or criminal law?

Max Fink:

We will argue --

Felix Frankfurter:

Are you arguing that children as a matter of federal common law include, covers, recognized illegitimacy?

Max Fink:

It is our contention that a child is the progeny of human parents and is a child under every -- any law --

Felix Frankfurter:

No matter what --

Max Fink:

-- particular -- no matter --

Felix Frankfurter:

Doesn't matter what the statute is.

Max Fink:

No matter what the -- what the state law maybe.

However --

Felix Frankfurter:

Generously taken a lot of needless territory, I'd like to say.

I know that's (Inaudible) to either one.

Max Fink:

Well, I -- I believe that since the question has been raised that we should also urge that in the event of the status of the child comes in question here, we will argue that that's status must be determined by the law of the domicile which has the strongest social interest in the persons within his domicile.

Felix Frankfurter:

Well, I -- I do think one has to come to the questions -- a position in this case whether children is a class -- the scope of which is to be defined by state law or whether it is -- it's a concept that has to get meaning in interpreting a federal law irregardless of what hardly we would say, irregardless of what state law requires.

Max Fink:

I believe that --

Felix Frankfurter:

I don't think one has to face that issue.

Max Fink: