WATSON V. BUCK, 313 U. S. 387 (1941)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Watson v. Buck, 313 U.S. 387 (1941)

Watson v. Buck

No. 610

Argued April 29, 30, 1941

Decided May 26, 1941

313 U.S. 387


1. A federal court, upon finding unconstitutional some parts of a state statute embracing many provisions, is not justified in declaring it void in toto, upon the ground that the legislature intended to form a harmonious whole, where parts whose validity standing alone was not passed upon are complete in themselves and where the statute declares that the invalidity of any part shall not affect the others. P. 313 U. S. 395.

2. Criminal proceedings to enforce a state statute, even though it be unconstitutional, are not to be enjoined by a federal court in the absence of a definite threat of prosecution and of a clear showing of great and immediate danger of irreparable loss. P. 313 U. S. 400.

3. As a rule, the constitutionality of state statutes containing many separate and distinct provisions, which have not been passed upon by the supreme court of the State, should be determined as cases arise from specific applications of the statute, and preferably by the state courts. P. 313 U. S. 401.

4. The copyright laws do not grant the copyright owners the privilege of combining in violation of otherwise valid state laws. P. 313 U. S. 404.

5. Section 1 of the Florida Laws of 1937, c. 17807, which defines as an unlawful combination an aggregation of authors, composers, publishers, and owners of copyrighted vocal or instrumental musical compositions who form any society, association, or the like, and the members of which constitute a substantial number of the persons, firms, or corporations within the United States who own or control such musical compositions,

"when one of the objects of such combination is the determination and fixation of license fees or other exactions required by such combination for itself or its members or other interested parties,"

and which makes it an offense for such combinations to act within the State in violation of the terms

Page 313 U. S. 388

of the statute, does not contravene the copyright laws or the Federal Constitution. P. 313 U. S. 404.

34 F.Supp. 510 reversed in part, affirmed in part.

Appeal and cross-appeal from a decree of the District Court, constituted of three judges, which enjoined the prosecuting officers of the State of Florida from enforcing a Florida statute of 1937 defining and forbidding unlawful combinations of authors, composers, publishers, and owners of copyrighted vocal or instrumental music compositions, etc., and which granted the injunction also, but only as to certain sections, against enforcement of an act on the same subject passed in 1939. The case was considered by this Court in earlier aspects in Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U. S. 66. Attorney general Watson was substituted for his predecessor Mr. Gibbs.

Page 313 U. S. 394

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