The Illustrated Story of Copyright
The Railroad Scene: Daly v. Boucicault

(p. 59 of the book)

Here's a sidebar about the Daly case on p. 59 that "ended up on the cutting room floor," because it just didn't fit into the existing layout:

       Daly v. Palmer was a fascinating 1868 case pitting two successful dramatists against each other. Augustin Daly, soon to become "one of the most influential figures in the American theatre," in 1867 wrote and produced his first original play, "Under the Gaslight." The very next year, Dion Boucicault, one of the first playwrights in England successful enough to demand and receive royalties as a percentage of the profits, wrote a play entitled "After Dark." The infringement was of Daly's famous "Railroad Scene," in which the heroine escapes from "a receptacle from which there seems to be no feasible means of egress," to save the intended victim from the onrushing train.

       It was appropriate that the test case involved Boucicault. Although he was an advocate of performance rights for dramatists when he lived in the United States, and was apparently instrumental in getting Congress to finally adopt such a right, he was also notorious for lifting the ideas, if not the plots, of others. He once boasted, "I am an emperor, and take what I think best for Art, whether it be a story from a book, a play from the French, an actor from a rival company." Charles Read, a collaborator, said, "Like Shakespeare and Molière the beggar steals everything he can lay his hands on, but he does it so deftly, so cleverly that I can't help condoning the theft." Lloyd Morris, author and drama critic, even suggested that it was this penchant that led Boucicault to be less generous in his advocacy of rights for foreign authors. "Naturally, Boucicault did not argue that the law should protect foreign playwrights, whose works he considered himself imperially privileged to pillage."

       The notes explained that the preceding material on Boucicault, including the quotes, was from Lloyd Morris, Curtain Time: The Story of the American Theater (1957) at pp. 185, 187; and John Anderson, The Amercian Theater (1938), p. 46. The Daly case was Daly v. Palmer, 6 Fed. Cas. 1132 (C.C.S.D.N.Y. 1868) (No. 3552).

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