SPERRY & HUTCHINSON CO. V. RHODES, 220 U. S. 502 (1911)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sperry & Hutchinson Co. v. Rhodes, 220 U.S. 502 (1911)

Sperry & Hutchinson Company v. Rhodes

No. 128

Argued April 19, 20, 1911, for plaintiff in error

The Court declined to hear further argument

Decided May 1, 1911

220 U.S. 502




The Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid statutes and statutory changes to have a beginning, and thus to discriminate between rights of an earlier and later time.

In a statute relating to the use of photographs, the fact that it applies only to those taken after the enactment does not render it unconstitutional as denying the equal protection of the law because it does not relate to those taken prior to such enactment.

Where property is not brought into existence until after a statute is passed, the owner is not deprived of his property without due process of law on account of limitations thereon imposed by such statute.

The Court of Appeals of that state having construed the statute of New York of 1903 limiting the use of photographs of persons to photographs taken after the statute went into effect, the statute is not unconstitutional as denying one owning photographs taken thereafter of his property without due process of law, or as denying equal protection of the law.

Judgment entered on authority of 193 N.Y. 223 affirmed.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

Page 220 U. S. 504

MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.

This is an action brought by the defendant in error for

Page 220 U. S. 505

using her photographed portrait for advertising purposes without her written consent first obtained. The facts were found against the defendant (the plaintiff in error), an injunction was issued, and damages were awarded; 120 App.Div. 467; the judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, 193 N.Y. 223, and thereupon final judgment was entered in the Supreme Court. The suit was based upon Chapter 132 of the New York Statutes of 1903, which makes such use of the name, portrait, or picture of any living person a misdemeanor, and gives this action. The case comes here on the single question of the constitutionality of the act. It is argued that as, before the statute, a person could not prevent the use of her portrait by one who took and owned it, Roberson v. Rochester Folding Box Co., 171 N.Y. 538, to deny that use now is to deprive the owner of his property without due process of law.

The Court of Appeals held that the statute applied only to photographs taken after it went into effect, as was the photograph of the plaintiff that the defendant used. The property was brought into existence under a law that limited the uses to be made of it, and if otherwise there could have been any question, in such a case, there is none. Some comment was made in argument on the distinction between photographs taken before and after the date in 1903 as inconsistent with the Fourteenth Amendment. But the Fourteenth Amendment does not forbid statutes and statutory changes to have a beginning, and thus to discriminate between the rights of an earlier and later time.

Judgment affirmed.

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