Ben Hur is a 15 minute long 1907 silent film, the first film version of Lew Wallace's novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, one of the best-selling books at that time.
This movie is most notable as a precedent in copyright law. The movie was made without the permission of the author's estate, which was common practice at that time. The screenwriter, Gene Gauntier, remarked in her 1928 autobiography how the film industry at that time infringed upon everything. As a result of the production of Ben Hur, Harper & Brothers and the author's estate brought suit against Kalem Studios, the Motion Picture Patents Company, and Gauntier for copyright infringement. The United States Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the film company in 1911. This ruling established the precedent that all motion picture production companies must first secure the film rights of any previously published work still under copyright before commissioning a screenplay based on that work.
The film was directed by Canadian director Sidney Olcott. At fifteen minutes long, only a small portion of the story was put on screen. The focus of the piece was the chariot race, which was filmed on a beach in New Jersey with