Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover

PETITIONER: Public Affairs Associates, Inc.
LOCATION: Labor Union Protest

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 369 US 111 (1962)
ARGUED: Nov 06, 1961 / Nov 07, 1961
DECIDED: Mar 05, 1962

Facts of the case


Media for Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 07, 1961 in Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 06, 1961 in Public Affairs Associates, Inc. v. Rickover

Earl Warren:

Number 36, Public Affairs Associates Incorporated, etcetera, Petitioner, versus Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover and Number 55, the Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, Petitioner, versus Public Affairs Associates Incorporated.

Mr. Rosenfield, you may proceed with your arguments.

Harry N. Rosenfield:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This case involves the question whether an official Government press release is a government publication.

If it is, it may not be copyrighted.

More broadly stated, the issue before this Court is whether any press release, government or private, is a government publication within the statutory restrictions against the copyrighting of government publication when it comprises a speech made by a high ranking Government official, delivered while on official duty and dealing with matters falling within the scope of his official duty or into the connection or relationship between that duty and the subject matter of the papers involved.

The petitioner in this case sought the declaratory judgment that Vice Admiral Hyman G. Rickover had no copyrightable interest in 23 of his public speeches.

We allege that this was so, because these were Government publications and therefore, we’re in the public domain.

The District Court held two things.

First, that these were not Government publications and secondly, that there have not been any general publications and therefore copyright was properly taken.

The Court of Appeals affirmed on the first point, reversed on the second point, and remanded for trial on a certain titles.

The facts in this case are completely undisputed, Your Honors.

The petitioner is a publisher operating in the District of Columbia.

The respondent is the honorable and highly regarded Admiral Rickover, who during all of the time of these proceedings critical dates held two positions simultaneously.

Within the navy, he was the Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ships for Nuclear Propulsion and simultaneously, within the Atomic Energy Commission, he was the Assistant Director for naval reactors.

During all of the time when the critical facts before the Court were involved, the Admiral was engaged on two major government projects, the construction of this country's first atomic submarine, the Nautilus and the construction of this country's first commercial atomic power plant at Shippingport, Pennsylvania.

Between October of 1955 and January of 1959, the Admiral made 23 speeches, publicly delivered.

I should like to break these down into two groups for the convenience of the Court.

The 23rd one had on its face a copyright registration.

The other 22 did not.

Among the first 22 speeches, 13 were issued as official press releases of the Department of Defense.

Owing to the fact that the printed record fails to disclose this clearly enough, I have asked the clerk to make available to me this morning the actual speech press releases that are in the record before this Court, this is from your record.

I have -- I've chosen four at random out of the 13.

You will note that in each one, this is the portion that was used by the clerk to print the record, this little piece here, you will note that across the top of each one of these speeches, the blue band news release please note this, Department of Defense, Office of Public Information, Washington D.C.

In the center is the CO of the Department of Defense.

Off to this side, hold for release until delivery of the press, off to this side is the Official Department's number of the press release number and its series.

Below that is the Department of Defense telephone and the extension of its Public Information Office, so that anyone can get further information.

This particular speech of the naval revolution, 13 were issued in this particular form.

Additionally to this, seven were issued by the Atomic Energy Commission and these again out of the right -- out of the record.

Not quite as colorful, but across the side, AEC and on the top of it, United States Atomic Energy Commission, Washington D.C. for release and the telephone number for future information.