David Goodis was an American writer of crime fiction noted for his output of short stories and novels in the noir fiction genre. Born in Philadelphia, Goodis alternately resided there and in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years. According to critic Dennis Drabelle, “Despite his [university] education, a combination of ethnicity (Jewish) and temperament allowed him to empathize with outsiders: the working poor, the unjustly accused, fugitives, criminals.

The trouble with people is they don't understand people.
David L. Goodis

In 1963, ABC television began airing The Fugitive, the fictional story of Richard Kimble, a doctor wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife. In the plot, Kimble subsequently escapes and begins a long search for the “one-armed man”, the person he believes to be the real killer.

Goodis stated that The Fugitive was based on his novel Dark Passage. In 1965, he sued United Artists-TV and ABC[7] for $500,000, alleging copyright infringement. His cousin’s law firm, Goodis, Greenfield, Narin and Mann, represented him, and several groups supported him, including the Authors League of America, the Dramatists Guild, and the American Book Publishers Association. Coudert Brothers represented United Artists and ABC.

During a deposition on December 9, 1966, Goodis stated that The Saturday Evening Post had serialized Dark Passage, a fact that would become critical to the case.

One month later, Goodis was dead. After his death the lawsuit continued to wind its way through the courts.

The dispute did not so much concern whether the theme of Dark Passage had been used, but whether the book was in the public domain. In a victory for UA and ABC, the District Court held that Goodis had, in effect, “donated his work to the public domain” when he published it in The Saturday Evening Post without using a copyright notice that listed his name.

The Goodis estate appealed. In 1970, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case for trial. The decision is reported at Goodis v. United Artists Television, Inc., 425 F.2d 397 (2nd Cir. 1970). The court wrote, “We unanimously conclude that where a magazine has purchased the right of first publication under circumstances which show that the author has no intention to donate his work to the public, copyright notice in the magazine’s name is sufficient to obtain a valid copyright on behalf of the beneficial owner, the author or proprietor.” (425 F.2d 398-399)

By then, Goodis’s main beneficiary, his brother Herbert, was also dead. So in 1972, the Goodis estate agreed that the case now had only “nuisance value” and accepted $12,000 to settle the matter. Despite the significant difference between the initial claim and the final monetary settlement, the case is still regarded as a landmark decision in intellectual property rights and copyright law.