February 19, 1902
Kansas City, Feb. 12. — Judge Teasdale in the circuit court here today granted the application of Frank James for an injunction to stop the production of “The James Boys in Missouri”, a drama depicting the James boys as train robbers and bank looters, and which has been playing at a local theater. The injunction proceedings were brought by Frank James, his mother, Zeralda Samuels, and his stepfather, Dr. Reuben Samuels. James’ petition alleges that the play was harmful to the youth of the country, in that it glorified outlawry and made heroes out of outlaws, and said that it unjustly revived a reputation that he had been trying to live down for twenty years. The suit raised the question as to whether or not a private citizen could be portrayed on the stage without his consent, whether to his discredit or not.
Judge Teasdale instructs that James furnish a bond of $4000 to indemnify the theater people against loss in case the decision is overturned by a higher court, and until the bond is given the play will go on. It is believed James will produce the bond during the day.
The injunction will prohibit the production of the present play anywhere in Missouri.
The right of privacy was the principal point of law under which Judge Teasdale granted the injunction. In passing upon it he decided a new legal question which, if sustained by the supreme court, will prove far-reaching. The point was the right of a private individual to live in privacy, and not have his person portrayed upon the stage without his consent. Judge Teasdale cited decisions on the point rendered under the laws of New York which, he said, were similar to the statutes of Missouri, wherein it had been held that a man has the right to prohibit the public exhibition of a statue of himself and that a photograph of a private individual could not be used as a trademark without his consent.
Continuing he said:
“The question in the case before this court is: Can a private person be portrayed upon the stage without his consent?”
“I can see no distinction between the exhibition of a photograph or a statue and dressing it up and taking the name of a person or portraying that person upon the stage. The principle involved is old, but the question is new. I find no decisions at all that have any bearing upon the case, at least in recent years. Under the view of it was that I have taken the injunction will be granted.”