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SILVER v. TELEVISION CITY (12/16/65)

decided: December 16, 1965.

SILVER
v.
TELEVISION CITY, INC., APPELLANT



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, July T., 1962, No. 2759, in case of Sam Silver v. Television City, Inc.

COUNSEL

Loyal H. Gregg, with him C. Holmes Wolfe, Jr., and White, Jones and Gregg, and Moorhead & Knox, for appellant.

Robert E. Walsh, with him Suto, Power, Balzarini & Walsh, for appellee.

Ervin, P. J., Wright, Watkins, Montgomery, Jacobs, and Hoffman, JJ. (Flood, J., absent). Opinion by Montgomery, J.

Author: Montgomery

[ 207 Pa. Super. Page 151]

This appeal by the defendant, Television City, Inc., which operates a commercial television station and broadcasting system known as WTAE-Channel 4, is from a judgment in favor of the appellee-plaintiff, Sam Silver, for $7,500 entered on a jury verdict in his favor in an action of assumpsit to recover for the use of a program known as "Air Your Gripe" which appellee-plaintiff claimed to be his property protected by a common-law copyright.

Two questions are presented to us. The first is whether plaintiff-appellee's program was a new and novel idea reduced to concrete form; and the second is whether the plaintiff should have been permitted to testify as to its market value.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the verdict winner, it is clear that he had reduced to concrete form by tape recording, typewritten format, and dummy script his ideas for the program

[ 207 Pa. Super. Page 152]

"Air Your Gripe", and that he had presented them to agents of the defendant which had used them in a program known under a different name, "Pulse of the People". The basic idea of "Air Your Gripe" was that people are interested in venting or airing in public their wrath against what they feel are iniquities or injustices. The format or layout of the show began with a solicitation by the station of letters from people who had complaints, "beefs". The people who wrote the most interesting letters would then be invited to appear at the station and broadcast their opinions without interrogation. Thereafter a moderator would review in brief what the person had broadcast. The designated time of the program determined how many such persons would appear to broadcast on each occasion. Plaintiff was permitted to testify that his program was flexible inasmuch as it would permit the expression of compliments or praise as well as complaints, and that he had suggested to defendant's agents that in that manner the pulse of the people could be determined.

It is defendant's contention that this idea was not novel but was an audience participation telecast or "letter to the editor" type of program which had been in the public domain for many years. In support of its contention defendant introduced into evidence a publication called "interaction", being a collection of television public affairs programs at the community level copyrighted in 1960 by the Television Information Office. This publication contained the names, with a brief description of the programs, of 1,038 such programs broadcast by 562 television stations in the United States. Defendant also offered the testimony of Mr. David Murray and Mr. Nick Perry, two of its staff announcers, concerning similar programs each had seen or participated in prior to the time they had heard of the one offered by plaintiff, and further testimony that "Pulse of the People" had been developed as a result

[ 207 Pa. Super. Page 153]

    of conferences with the journalism department of Duquesne University. This evidence was submitted to the jury to aid it in determining whether "Air Your Gripe" was a novel idea. The jury resolved that issue in plaintiff's favor. ...


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