Roddy-Eden v. Berle

202 Misc. 261, 108 N.Y.S.2d 597 (Sup. Ct. 1951)



If an author were to assign to another the privilege of publishing books with his name upon their title page, it cannot for a moment be supposed that any court would protect such a supposed right, even as against the original assignor.


Defendant comedian, who had acquired great prominence in all fields of entertainment, allegedly requested plaintiff author to write a serious novel for publication under defendant's name as sole author, thereby insuring the likelihood of a large sale, and that all profits derived from the work would be distributed equally. Plaintiff completed the book, and the parties entered into a written agreement. Later, defendant informed plaintiff that he would not permit her work to be published. Plaintiff sued defendant for damages for breach of contract. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the agreement violated public policy. The court granted the motion and dismissed the complaint.


Was an agreement to publish a book, which was written by another person, under a famous person’s name in order to insure the likelihood of a large sale contrary to public policy, and thus, unenforceable?




The allegations indicated a scheme to deliberately foist a fraud on the public and ultimately to extract from the public the cost of the book by means of deception practiced upon it. The instant case was not one writing under a nom de plume, where the true and real author was employing a pseudonym. Accordingly, the agreement offended public policy by purporting to practice fraud and deception upon the public, and as such, the agreement was unenforceable.

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