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Part I: What is Protected?
  • 1 The Idea/Expression Distinction

    • 1.1 17 U.S.C 102

      1
      § 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general
      2

      (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accord­ance with this title, in original works of author­ship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise com­municated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

      3

      (1) literary works;

      4

      (2) musical works, including any accompany­ing words;

      5

      (3) dramatic works, including any accom­panying music;

      6

      (4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

      7

      (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

      8

      (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

      9

      (7) sound recordings; and

      10

      (8) architectural works.

      11

      (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, il­lustrated, or embodied in such work.

      12

      (Pub. L. 94–553, title I, § 101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2544; Pub. L. 101–650, title VII, § 703, Dec. 1, 1990, 104 Stat. 5133.)

    • 1.2 Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879)

      1
       101 U.S. 99 (1879)
      2
      Baker
      v.
      Selden
      3
      Supreme Court of the United States
      4

      APPEAL from the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio.

      5

      The facts are stated in the opinion of the court.

      6

      Mr. Alphonso Taft and Mr. H. P. Lloyd for the appellant.

      7

      Mr. C. W. Moulton and Mr. M. I. Southard for the appellee.

      8

      MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY delivered the opinion of the court.

      9

      Charles Selden, the testator of the complainant in this case, in the year 1859 took the requisite steps for obtaining the copyright [100] of a book, entitled 'Selden's Condensed Ledger, or Book-keeping Simplified,' the object of which was to exhibit and explain a peculiar system of book-keeping. In 1860 and 1861, he took the copyright of several other books, containing additions to and improvements upon the said system. The bill of complaint was filed against the defendant, Baker, for an alleged infringement of these copyrights. The latter, in his answer, denied that Selden was the author or designer of the books, and denied the infringement charged, and contends on the argument that the matter alleged to be infringed is not a lawful subject of copyright.

      10

      The parties went into proofs, and the various books of the complainant, as well as those sold and used by the defendant, were exhibited before the examiner, and witnesses were examined on both sides. A decree was rendered for the complainant, and the defendant appealed.

      11

      The book or series of books of which the complainant claims the copyright consists of an introductory essay explaining the system of book-keeping referred to, to which are annexed certain forms or banks, consisting of ruled lines, and headings, illustrating the system and showing how it is to be used and carried out in practice. This system effects the same results as book-keeping by double entry; but, by a peculiar arrangement of columns and headings, presents the entire operation, of a day, a week, or a month, on a single page, or on two pages facing each other, in an account-book. The defendant uses a similar plan so far as results are concerned; but makes a different arrangement of the columns, and uses different headings. If the complainant's testator had the exclusive right to the use of the system explained in his book, it would be difficult to contend that the defendant does not infringe it, notwithstanding the difference in his form of arrangement; but if it be assumed that the system is open to public use, it seems to be equally difficult to contend that the books made and sold by the defendant are a violation of the copyright of the complainant's book considered merely as a book explanatory of the system. Where the truths of a science or the methods of an art are the common property of the whole world, any author has the right to express the one, or explain and use the other, in [101] his own way. As an author, Selden explained the system in a particular way. It may be conceded that Baker makes and uses account-books arranged on substantially the same system; but the proof fails to show that he has violated the copyright of Selden's book, regarding the latter merely as an explanatory work; or that he has infringed Selden's right in any way, unless the latter became entitled to an exclusive right in the system.

      12

      The evidence of the complainant is principally directed to the object of showing that Baker uses the same system as that which is explained and illustrated in Selden's books. It becomes important, therefore, to determine whether, in obtaining the copyright of his books, he secured the exclusive right to the use of the system or method of book-keeping which the said books are intended to illustrate and explain. It is contended that he has secured such exclusive right, because no one can use the system without using substantially the same ruled lines and headings which he has appended to his books in illustration of it. In other words, it is contended that the ruled lines and headings, given to illustrate the system, are a part of the book, and, as such, are secured by the copyright; and that no one can make or use similar ruled lines and headings, or ruled lines and headings made and arranged on substantially the same system, without violating the copyright. And this is really the question to be decided in this case. Stated in another form, the question is, whether the exclusive property in a system of book-keeping can be claimed, under the law of copyright, by means of a book in which that system is explained? The complainant's bill, and the case made under it, are based on the hypothesis that it can be.

      13

      It cannot be pretended, and indeed it is not seriously urged, that the ruled lines of the complainant's account-book can be claimed under any special class of objects, other than books, named in the law of copyright existing in 1859. The law then in force was that of 1831, and specified only books, maps, charts, musical compositions, prints, and engravings. An account-book, consisting of ruled lines and blank columns, cannot be called by any of these names unless by that of a book.

      14

      There is no doubt that a work on the subject of book-keeping, [102] though only explanatory of well-known systems, may be the subject of a copyright; but, then, it is claimed only as a book. Such a book may be explanatory either of old systems, or of an entirely new system; and, considered as a book, as the work of an author, conveying information on the subject of book-keeping, and containing detailed explanations of the art, it may be a very valuable acquisition to the practical knowledge of the community. But there is a clear distinction between the book, as such, and the art which it is intended to illustrate. The mere statement of the proposition is so evident, that it requires hardly any argument to support it. The same distinction may be predicated of every other art as well as that of book-keeping. A treatise on the composition and use of medicines, be they old or new; on the construction and use of ploughs, or watches, or churns; or on the mixture and application of colors for painting or dyeing; or on the mode of drawing lines to produce the effect of perspective, would be the subject of copyright; but no one would contend that the copyright of the treatise would give the exclusive right to the art or manufacture described therein. The copyright of the book, if not pirated from other works, would be valid without regard to the novelty, or want of novelty, of its subject-matter. The novelty of the art or thing described or explained has nothing to do with the validity of the copyright. To give to the author of the book an exclusive property in the art described therein, when no examination of its novelty has ever been officially made, would be a surprise and a fraud upon the public. That is the province of letters-patent, not of copyright. The claim to an invention or discovery of an art or manufacture must be subjected to the examination of the Patent Office before an exclusive right therein can be obtained; and it can only be secured by a patent from the government.

      15

      The difference between the two things, letters-patent and copyright, may be illustrated by reference to the subjects just enumerated. Take the case of medicines. Certain mixtures are found to be of great value in the healing art. If the discoverer writes and publishes a book on the subject (as regular physicians generally do), he gains no exclusive right to the manufacture and sale of the medicine; he gives that to the [103] public. If he desires to acquire such exclusive right, he must obtain a patent for the mixture as a new art, manufacture, or composition of matter. He may copyright his book, if he pleases; but that only secures to him the exclusive right of printing and publishing his book. So of all other inventions or discoveries.

      16

      The copyright of a book on perspective, no matter how many drawings and illustrations it may contain, gives no exclusive right to the modes of drawing described, though they may never have been known or used before. By publishing the book, without getting a patent for the art, the latter is given to the public. The fact that the art described in the book by illustrations of lines and figures which are reproduced in practice in the application of the art, makes no difference. Those illustrations are the mere language employed by the author to convey his ideas more clearly. Had he used words of description instead of diagrams (which merely stand in the place of words), there could not be the slightest doubt that others, applying the art to practical use, might lawfully draw the lines and diagrams which were in the author's mind, and which he thus described by words in his book.

      17

      The copyright of a work on mathematical science cannot give to the author an exclusive right to the methods of operation which he propounds, or to the diagrams which he employs to explain them, so as to prevent an engineer from using them whenever occasion requires. The very object of publishing a book on science or the useful arts is to communicate to the world the useful knowledge which it contains. But this object would be frustrated if the knowledge could not be used without incurring the guilt of piracy of the book. And where the art it teaches cannot be used without employing the methods and diagrams used to illustrate the book, or such as are similar to them, such methods and diagrams are to be considered as necessary incidents to the art, and given therewith to the public; not given for the purpose of publication in other works explanatory of the art, but for the purpose of practical application.

      18

      Of course, these observations are not intended to apply to ornamental designs, or pictorial illustrations addressed to the taste. Of these it may be said, that their form is their essence, [104] and their object, the production of pleasure in their contemplation. This is their final end. They are as much the product of genius and the result of composition, as are the lines of the poet or the historian's periods. On the other hand, the teachings of science and the rules and methods of useful art have their final end in application and use; and this application and use are what the public derive from the publication of a book which teaches them. But as embodied and taught in a literary composition or book, their essence consists only in their statement. This alone is what is secured by the copyright. The use by another of the same methods of statement, whether in words or illustrations, in a book published for teaching the art, would undoubtedly be an infringement of the copyright.

      19

      Recurring to the case before us, we observe that Charles Selden, by his books, explained and described a peculiar system of book-keeping, and illustrated his method by means of ruled lines and blank columns, with proper headings on a page, or on successive pages. Now, whilst no one has a right to print or publish his book, or any material part thereof, as a book intended to convey instruction in the art, any person may practise and use the art itself which he has described and illustrated therein. The use of the art is a totally different thing from a publication of the book explaining it. The copyright of a book on book-keeping cannot secure the exclusive right to make, sell, and use account-books prepared upon the plan set forth in such book. Whether the art might or might not have been patented, is a question which is not before us. It was not patented, and is open and free to the use of the public. And, of course, in using the art, the ruled lines and headings of accounts must necessarily be used as incident to it.

      20

      The plausibility of the claim put forward by the complainant in this case arises from a confusion of ideas produced by the peculiar nature of the art described in the books which have been made the subject of copyright. In describing the art, the illustrations and diagrams employed happen to correspond more closely than usual with the actual work performed by the operator who uses the art. Those illustrations and diagrams consist of ruled lines and headings of accounts; and [105] it is similar ruled lines and headings of accounts which, in the application of the art, the book-keeper makes with his pen, or the stationer with his press; whilst in most other cases the diagrams and illustrations can only be represented in concrete forms of wood, metal, stone, or some other physical embodiment. But the principle is the same in all. The description of the art in a book, though entitled to the benefit of copyright, lays no foundation for an exclusive claim to the art itself. The object of the one is explanation; the object of the other is use. The former may be secured by copyright. The latter can only be secured, if it can be secured at all, by letters-patent.

      21

      The remarks of Mr. Justice Thompson in the Circuit Court in Clayton v. Stone & Hall (2 Paine, 392), in which copyright was claimed in a daily price-current, are apposite and instructive. He says: 'In determining the true construction to be given to the act of Congress, it is proper to look at the Constitution of the United States, to aid us in ascertaining the nature of the property intended to be protected. 'Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings and discoveries.' The act in question was passed in execution of the power here given, and the object, therefore, was the promotion of science; and it would certainly be a pretty extraordinary view of the sciences to consider a daily or weekly publication of the state of the market as falling within any class of them. They are of a more fixed, permanent, and durable character. The term 'science' cannot, with any propriety, by applied to a work of so fluctuating and fugitive a form as that of a newspaper or price-current, the subject-matter of which is daily changing, and is of mere temporary use. Although great praise may be due to the plaintiffs for their industry and enterprise in publishing this paper, yet the law does not contemplate their being rewarded in this way: it must seek patronage and protection from its utility to the public, and not a work of science. The title of the act of Congress is, 'for the encouragement of learning,' and was not intended for the encouragement of mere industry, unconnected with learning and the sciences. . . . We are, accordingly, of opinion that the paper in question is not [106] a book the copyright to which can be secured under the act of Congress.'

      22

      The case of Cobbett v. Woodward (Law Rep. 14 Eq. 407) was a claim to copyright in a catalogue of furniture which the publisher had on sale in his establishment, illustrated with many drawings of furniture and decorations. The defendants, being dealers in the same business, published a similar book, and copied many of the plaintiff's drawings, though it was shown that they had for sale the articles represented thereby.

      23

      The court held that these drawings were not subjects of copyright. Lord Romilly, M. R., said: 'This is a mere advertisement for the sale of particular articles which any one might imitate, and any one might advertise for sale. If a man not being a vendor of any of the articles in question were to publish a work for the purpose of informing the public of what was the most convenient species of articles for household furniture, or the most graceful species of decorations for articles of home furniture, what they ought to cost, and where they might be bought, and were to illustrate his work with designs of each article he described,—such a work as this could not be pirated with impunity, and the attempt to do so would be stopped by the injunction of the Court of Chancery; yet if it were done with no such object, but solely for the purpose of advertising particular articles for sale, and promoting the private trade of the publisher by the sale of articles which any other person might sell as well as the first advertiser, and if in fact it contained little more than an illustrated inventory of the contents of a warehouse, I know of no law which, while it would not prevent the second advertiser from selling the same articles, would prevent him from using the same advertisement; provided he did not in such advertisement by any device suggest that he was selling the works and designs of the first advertiser.'

      24

      Another case, that of Page v. Wisden (20 L. T. N. S. 435), which came before Vice-Chancellor Malins in 1869, has some resemblance to the present. There a copyright was claimed in a cricket scoring-shett, and the Vice-Chancellor held that it was not a fit subject for copyright, partly because it was not new, but also because 'to say that a particular [107] mode of ruling a book constituted an object for a copyright is absurd.'

      25

      These cases, if not precisely in point, come near to the matter in hand, and, in our view, corroborate the general proposition which we have laid down.

      26

      In Drury v. Ewing (1 Bond, 540), which is much relied on by the complainant, a copyright was claimed in a chart of patterns for cutting dresses and basques for ladies, and coats, jackets, &c., for boys. It is obvious that such designs could only be printed and published for information, and not for use in themselves. Their practical use could only be exemplified in cloth on the tailor's board and under his shears; in other words, by the application of a mechanical operation to the cutting of cloth in certain patterns and forms. Surely the exclusive right to this practical use was not reserved to the publisher by his copyright of the chart. Without undertaking to say whether we should or should not concur in the decision in that case, we think it cannot control the present.

      27

      The conclusion to which we have come is, that blank account-books are not the subject of copyright; and that the mere copyright of Selden's book did not confer upon him the exclusive right to make and use account-books, ruled and arranged as designated by him and described and illustrated in said book.

      28

      The decree of the Circuit Court must be reversed, and the cause remanded with instructions to dismiss the complainant's bill; and it is

      29

      So ordered

    • 1.3 Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930)

      1
      45 F.2d 119 (1930)
      2
      NICHOLS
      v.
      UNIVERSAL PICTURES CORPORATION et al.
      3
      No. 4.
      4

      Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

      5
      November 10, 1930.
      6

       

      7

      O'Brien, Malevinsky & Driscoll, of New York City (Isaac R. Oeland and M. L. Malevinsky, both of New York City, of counsel), for appellant.

      8

      Siegfried F. Hartman, of New York City (Nathan L. Miller and Siegfried F. Hartman, both of New York City, of counsel), for appellees.

      9

      [120] Before L. HAND, SWAN, and AUGUSTUS N. HAND, Circuit Judges.

      10

      L. HAND, Circuit Judge.

      11

      The plaintiff is the author of a play, "Abie's Irish Rose," which it may be assumed was properly copyrighted under section five, subdivision (d), of the Copyright Act, 17 USCA § 5(d). The defendant produced publicly a motion picture play, "The Cohens and The Kellys," which the plaintiff alleges was taken from it. As we think the defendant's play too unlike the plaintiff's to be an infringement, we may assume, arguendo, that in some details the defendant used the plaintiff's play, as will subsequently appear, though we do not so decide. It therefore becomes necessary to give an outline of the two plays.

      12

      "Abie's Irish Rose" presents a Jewish family living in prosperous circumstances in New York. The father, a widower, is in business as a merchant, in which his son and only child helps him. The boy has philandered with young women, who to his father's great disgust have always been Gentiles, for he is obsessed with a passion that his daughter-in-law shall be an orthodox Jewess. When the play opens the son, who has been courting a young Irish Catholic girl, has already married her secretly before a Protestant minister, and is concerned to soften the blow for his father, by securing a favorable impression of his bride, while concealing her faith and race. To accomplish this he introduces her to his father at his home as a Jewess, and lets it appear that he is interested in her, though he conceals the marriage. The girl somewhat reluctantly falls in with the plan; the father takes the bait, becomes infatuated with the girl, concludes that they must marry, and assumes that of course they will, if he so decides. He calls in a rabbi, and prepares for the wedding according to the Jewish rite.

      13

      Meanwhile the girl's father, also a widower, who lives in California, and is as intense in his own religious antagonism as the Jew, has been called to New York, supposing that his daughter is to marry an Irishman and a Catholic. Accompanied by a priest, he arrives at the house at the moment when the marriage is being celebrated, but too late to prevent it, and the two fathers, each infuriated by the proposed union of his child to a heretic, fall into unseemly and grotesque antics. The priest and the rabbi become friendly, exchange trite sentiments about religion, and agree that the match is good. Apparently out of abundant caution, the priest celebrates the marriage for a third time, while the girl's father is inveigled away. The second act closes with each father, still outraged, seeking to find some way by which the union, thus trebly insured, may be dissolved.

      14

      The last act takes place about a year later, the young couple having meanwhile been abjured by each father, and left to their own resources. They have had twins, a boy and a girl, but their fathers know no more than that a child has been born. At Christmas each, led by his craving to see his grandchild, goes separately to the young folks' home, where they encounter each other, each laden with gifts, one for a boy, the other for a girl. After some slapstick comedy, depending upon the insistence of each that he is right about the sex of the grandchild, they become reconciled when they learn the truth, and that each child is to bear the given name of a grandparent. The curtain falls as the fathers are exchanging amenities, and the Jew giving evidence of an abatement in the strictness of his orthodoxy.

      15

      "The Cohens and The Kellys" presents two families, Jewish and Irish, living side by side in the poorer quarters of New York in a state of perpetual enmity. The wives in both cases are still living, and share in the mutual animosity, as do two small sons, and even the respective dogs. The Jews have a daughter, the Irish a son; the Jewish father is in the clothing business; the Irishman is a policeman. The children are in love with each other, and secretly marry, apparently after the play opens. The Jew, being in great financial straits, learns from a lawyer that he has fallen heir to a large fortune from a great-aunt, and moves into a great house, fitted luxuriously. Here he and his family live in vulgar ostentation, and here the Irish boy seeks out his Jewish bride, and is chased away by the angry father. The Jew then abuses the Irishman over the telephone, and both become hysterically excited. The extremity of his feelings makes the Jew sick, so that he must go to Florida for a rest, just before which the daughter discloses her marriage to her mother.

      16

      On his return the Jew finds that his daughter has borne a child; at first he suspects the lawyer, but eventually learns the truth and is overcome with anger at such a low alliance. Meanwhile, the Irish family who have been forbidden to see the grandchild, go to the Jew's house, and after a violent scene between the two fathers in which the Jew disowns his daughter, who decides to go back with her husband, the Irishman takes her back with her baby to his own poor lodgings. [121] The lawyer, who had hoped to marry the Jew's daughter, seeing his plan foiled, tells the Jew that his fortune really belongs to the Irishman, who was also related to the dead woman, but offers to conceal his knowledge, if the Jew will share the loot. This the Jew repudiates, and, leaving the astonished lawyer, walks through the rain to his enemy's house to surrender the property. He arrives in great dejection, tells the truth, and abjectly turns to leave. A reconciliation ensues, the Irishman agreeing to share with him equally. The Jew shows some interest in his grandchild, though this is at most a minor motive in the reconciliation, and the curtain falls while the two are in their cups, the Jew insisting that in the firm name for the business, which they are to carry on jointly, his name shall stand first.

      17

      It is of course essential to any protection of literary property, whether at common-law or under the statute, that the right cannot be limited literally to the text, else a plagiarist would escape by immaterial variations. That has never been the law, but, as soon as literal appropriation ceases to be the test, the whole matter is necessarily at large, so that, as was recently well said by a distinguished judge, the decisions cannot help much in a new case. Fendler v. Morosco, 253 N. Y. 281, 292, 171 N. E. 56. When plays are concerned, the plagiarist may excise a separate scene [Daly v. Webster, 56 F. 483 (C. C. A. 2); Chappell v. Fields, 210 F. 864 (C. C. A. 2); Chatterton v. Cave, L. R. 3 App. Cas. 483]; or he may appropriate part of the dialogue (Warne v. Seebohm, L. R. 39 Ch. D. 73). Then the question is whether the part so taken is "substantial," and therefore not a "fair use" of the copyrighted work; it is the same question as arises in the case of any other copyrighted work. Marks v. Feist, 290 F. 959 (C. C. A. 2); Emerson v. Davies, Fed. Cas. No. 4436, 3 Story, 768, 795-797. But when the plagiarist does not take out a block in situ, but an abstract of the whole, decision is more troublesome. Upon any work, and especially upon a play, a great number of patterns of increasing generality will fit equally well, as more and more of the incident is left out. The last may perhaps be no more than the most general statement of what the play is about, and at times might consist only of its title; but there is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the playwright could prevent the use of his "ideas," to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended. Holmes v. Hurst, 174 U. S. 82, 86, 19 S. Ct. 606, 43 L. Ed. 904; Guthrie v. Curlett, 36 F.(2d) 694 (C. C. A. 2). Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary, and nobody ever can. In some cases the question has been treated as though it were analogous to lifting a portion out of the copyrighted work (Rees v. Melville, MacGillivray's Copyright Cases [1911-1916], 168); but the analogy is not a good one, because, though the skeleton is a part of the body, it pervades and supports the whole. In such cases we are rather concerned with the line between expression and what is expressed. As respects plays, the controversy chiefly centers upon the characters and sequence of incident, these being the substance.

      18

      We did not in Dymow v. Bolton, 11 F. (2d) 690, hold that a plagiarist was never liable for stealing a plot; that would have been flatly against our rulings in Dam v. Kirk La Shelle Co., 175 F. 902, 41 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1002, 20 Ann. Cas. 1173, and Stodart v. Mutual Film Co., 249 F. 513, affirming my decision in (D. C.) 249 F. 507; neither of which we meant to overrule. We found the plot of the second play was too different to infringe, because the most detailed pattern, common to both, eliminated so much from each that its content went into the public domain; and for this reason we said, "this mere subsection of a plot was not susceptible of copyright." But we do not doubt that two plays may correspond in plot closely enough for infringement. How far that correspondence must go is another matter. Nor need we hold that the same may not be true as to the characters, quite independently of the "plot" proper, though, as far as we know, such a case has never arisen. If Twelfth Night were copyrighted, it is quite possible that a second comer might so closely imitate Sir Toby Belch or Malvolio as to infringe, but it would not be enough that for one of his characters he cast a riotous knight who kept wassail to the discomfort of the household, or a vain and foppish steward who became amorous of his mistress. These would be no more than Shakespeare's "ideas" in the play, as little capable of monopoly as Einstein's Doctrine of Relativity, or Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species. It follows that the less developed the characters, the less they can be copyrighted; that is the penalty an author must bear for marking them too indistinctly.

      19

      In the two plays at bar we think both as to incident and character, the defendant took no more — assuming that it took anything at all — than the law allowed. The stories are quite different. One is of a religious zealot [122] who insists upon his child's marrying no one outside his faith; opposed by another who is in this respect just like him, and is his foil. Their difference in race is merely an obbligato to the main theme, religion. They sink their differences through grandparental pride and affection. In the other, zealotry is wholly absent; religion does not even appear. It is true that the parents are hostile to each other in part because they differ in race; but the marriage of their son to a Jew does not apparently offend the Irish family at all, and it exacerbates the existing animosity of the Jew, principally because he has become rich, when he learns it. They are reconciled through the honesty of the Jew and the generosity of the Irishman; the grandchild has nothing whatever to do with it. The only matter common to the two is a quarrel between a Jewish and an Irish father, the marriage of their children, the birth of grandchildren and a reconciliation.

      20

      If the defendant took so much from the plaintiff, it may well have been because her amazing success seemed to prove that this was a subject of enduring popularity. Even so, granting that the plaintiff's play was wholly original, and assuming that novelty is not essential to a copyright, there is no monopoly in such a background. Though the plaintiff discovered the vein, she could not keep it to herself; so defined, the theme was too generalized an abstraction from what she wrote. It was only a part of her "ideas."

      21

      Nor does she fare better as to her characters. It is indeed scarcely credible that she should not have been aware of those stock figures, the low comedy Jew and Irishman. The defendant has not taken from her more than their prototypes have contained for many decades. If so, obviously so to generalize her copyright, would allow her to cover what was not original with her. But we need not hold this as matter of fact, much as we might be justified. Even though we take it that she devised her figures out of her brain de novo, still the defendant was within its rights.

      22

      There are but four characters common to both plays, the lovers and the fathers. The lovers are so faintly indicated as to be no more than stage properties. They are loving and fertile; that is really all that can be said of them, and anyone else is quite within his rights if he puts loving and fertile lovers in a play of his own, wherever he gets the cue. The plaintiff's Jew is quite unlike the defendant's. His obsession is his religion, on which depends such racial animosity as he has. He is affectionate, warm and patriarchal. None of these fit the defendant's Jew, who shows affection for his daughter only once, and who has none but the most superficial interest in his grandchild. He is tricky, ostentatious and vulgar, only by misfortune redeemed into honesty. Both are grotesque, extravagant and quarrelsome; both are fond of display; but these common qualities make up only a small part of their simple pictures, no more than any one might lift if he chose. The Irish fathers are even more unlike; the plaintiff's a mere symbol for religious fanaticism and patriarchal pride, scarcely a character at all. Neither quality appears in the defendant's, for while he goes to get his grandchild, it is rather out of a truculent determination not to be forbidden, than from pride in his progeny. For the rest he is only a grotesque hobbledehoy, used for low comedy of the most conventional sort, which any one might borrow, if he chanced not to know the exemplar.

      23

      The defendant argues that the case is controlled by my decision in Fisher v. Dillingham (D. C.) 298 F. 145. Neither my brothers nor I wish to throw doubt upon the doctrine of that case, but it is not applicable here. We assume that the plaintiff's play is altogether original, even to an extent that in fact it is hard to believe. We assume further that, so far as it has been anticipated by earlier plays of which she knew nothing, that fact is immaterial. Still, as we have already said, her copyright did not cover everything that might be drawn from her play; its content went to some extent into the public domain. We have to decide how much, and while we are as aware as any one that the line, whereever it is drawn, will seem arbitrary, that is no excuse for not drawing it; it is a question such as courts must answer in nearly all cases. Whatever may be the difficulties a priori, we have no question on which side of the line this case falls. A comedy based upon conflicts between Irish and Jews, into which the marriage of their children enters, is no more susceptible of copyright than the outline of Romeo and Juliet.

      24

      The plaintiff has prepared an elaborate analysis of the two plays, showing a "quadrangle" of the common characters, in which each is represented by the emotions which he discovers. She presents the resulting parallelism as proof of infringement, but the adjectives employed are so general as to be quite useless. Take for example the attribute of "love" ascribed to both Jews. The plaintiff has depicted her father as deeply attached [123] to his son, who is his hope and joy; not so, the defendant, whose father's conduct is throughout not actuated by any affection for his daughter, and who is merely once overcome for the moment by her distress when he has violently dismissed her lover. "Anger" covers emotions aroused by quite different occasions in each case; so do "anxiety," "despondency" and "disgust." It is unnecessary to go through the catalogue for emotions are too much colored by their causes to be a test when used so broadly. This is not the proper approach to a solution; it must be more ingenuous, more like that of a spectator, who would rely upon the complex of his impressions of each character.

      25

      We cannot approve the length of the record, which was due chiefly to the use of expert witnesses. Argument is argument whether in the box or at the bar, and its proper place is the last. The testimony of an expert upon such issues, especially his cross-examination, greatly extends the trial and contributes nothing which cannot be better heard after the evidence is all submitted. It ought not to be allowed at all; and while its admission is not a ground for reversal, it cumbers the case and tends to confusion, for the more the court is led into the intricacies of dramatic craftsmanship, the less likely it is to stand upon the firmer, if more naïve, ground of its considered impressions upon its own perusal. We hope that in this class of cases such evidence may in the future be entirely excluded, and the case confined to the actual issues; that is, whether the copyrighted work was original, and whether the defendant copied it, so far as the supposed infringement is identical.

      26

      The defendant, "the prevailing party," was entitled to a reasonable attorney's fee (section 40 of the Copyright Act [17 USCA § 40]).

      27

      Decree affirmed.

    • 1.4 A.A. Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F.2d 972 (2d Cir. 1980)

      1
      618 F.2d 972
      2
      205 U.S.P.Q. 681, 1978-81 Copr.L.Dec. 25,146,
      6 Media L. Rep. 1053
      3
      A. A. HOEHLING, Plaintiff-Appellant,
      v.
      UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC., and Michael MacDonald Mooney,
      Defendants-Appellees.
      4
      No. 692, Docket 79-7704.
      5
      United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
      6
      Argued Feb. 27, 1980.
      Decided March 25, 1980.
      7

       

      8

      [618 F.2d 974] James C. Eastman, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff-appellant.

      9

      Coudert Bros., New York City (Eugene L. Girden, New York City, of counsel), for defendant-appellee Universal City Studios, Inc.

      10

      Peter A. Flynn, and Myron M. Cherry, Chicago, Ill. (Cherry, Flynn & Kanter, Chicago, Ill., Hervey M. Johnson, White Plains, N. Y.), and James J. McEnroe, New York City (Watson, Leavenworth, Kelton & Taggert, New York City), for defendant-appellee Michael M. Mooney.

      11

      Before KAUFMAN, Chief Judge, TIMBERS, Circuit Judge, and WERKER, District Judge.[*]

      12

      IRVING R. KAUFMAN, Chief Judge:

      13

      A grant of copyright in a published work secures for its author a limited monopoly over the expression it contains. The copyright provides a financial incentive to those who would add to the corpus of existing knowledge by creating original works. Nevertheless, the protection afforded the copyright holder has never extended to history, be it documented fact or explanatory hypothesis. The rationale for this doctrine is that the cause of knowledge is best served when history is the common property of all, and each generation remains free to draw upon the discoveries and insights of the past. Accordingly, the scope of copyright in historical accounts is narrow indeed, embracing no more than the author's original expression of particular facts and theories already in the public domain. As the case before us illustrates, absent wholesale usurpation of another's expression, claims of copyright infringement where works of history are at issue are rarely successful.

      14
      I.
      15

      This litigation arises from three separate accounts of the triumphant introduction, last voyage, and tragic destruction of the Hindenburg, the colossal dirigible constructed in Germany during Hitler's reign. The zeppelin, the last and most sophisticated in a fleet of luxury airships, which punctually floated its wealthy passengers from the Third Reich to the United States, exploded into flames and disintegrated in 35 seconds as it hovered above the Lakehurst, New Jersey Naval Air Station at 7:25 p. m. on May 6, 1937. Thirty-six passengers and [618 F.2d 975] crew were killed but, fortunately, 52 persons survived. Official investigations conducted by both American and German authorities could ascertain no definitive cause of the disaster, but both suggested the plausibility of static electricity or St. Elmo's Fire, which could have ignited the highly explosive hydrogen that filled the airship. Throughout, the investigators refused to rule out the possibility of sabotage.

      16

      The destruction of the Hindenburg marked the concluding chapter in the chronicle of airship passenger service, for after the tragedy at Lakehurst, the Nazi regime permanently grounded the Graf Zeppelin I and discontinued its plan to construct an even larger dirigible, the Graf Zeppelin II.

      17

      The final pages of the airship's story marked the beginning of a series of journalistic, historical, and literary accounts devoted to the Hindenburg and its fate. Indeed, weeks of testimony by a plethora of witnesses before the official investigative panels provided fertile source material for would-be authors. Moreover, both the American and German Commissions issued official reports, detailing all that was then known of the tragedy. A number of newspaper and magazine articles had been written about the Hindenburg in 1936, its first year of trans-Atlantic service, and they, of course, multiplied many fold after the crash. In addition, two passengers Margaret Mather and Gertrud Adelt published separate and detailed accounts of the voyage, C. E. Rosendahl, commander of the Lakehurst Naval Air Station and a pioneer in airship travel himself, wrote a book titled What About the Airship?, in which he endorsed the theory that the Hindenburg was the victim of sabotage. In 1957, Nelson Gidding, who would return to the subject of the Hindenburg some 20 years later, wrote an unpublished "treatment" for a motion picture based on the deliberate destruction of the airship. In that year as well, John Toland published Ships in the Sky which, in its seventeenth chapter, chronicled the last flight of the Hindenburg. In 1962, Dale Titler released Wings of Mystery, in which he too devoted a chapter to the Hindenburg.[1]

      18

      Appellant A. A. Hoehling published Who Destroyed the Hindenburg ?, a full-length book based on his exhaustive research in 1962. Mr. Hoehling studied the investigative reports, consulted previously published articles and books, and conducted interviews with survivors of the crash as well as others who possessed information about the Hindenburg. His book is presented as a factual account, written in an objective, reportorial style.

      19

      The first half recounts the final crossing of the Hindenburg, from Sunday, May 2, when it left Frankfurt, to Thursday, May 6, when it exploded at Lakehurst. Hoehling describes the airship, its role as an instrument of propaganda in Nazi Germany, its passengers and crew, the danger of hydrogen, and the ominous threats received by German officials, warning that the Hindenburg would be destroyed. The second portion, headed The Quest, sets forth the progress of the official investigations, followed by an account of Hoehling's own research. In the final chapter, spanning eleven pages, Hoehling suggests that all proffered explanations of the explosion, save deliberate destruction, are unconvincing. He concludes that the most likely saboteur is one Eric Spehl, a "rigger" on the Hindenburg crew who was killed at Lakehurst.

      20

      According to Hoehling, Spehl had motive, expertise, and opportunity to plant an explosive device, constructed of dry-cell batteries and a flashbulb, in "Gas Cell 4," the location of the initial explosion. An amateur photographer with access to flashbulbs, Spehl could have destroyed the Hindenburg to please his ladyfriend, a suspected communist dedicated to exploding the myth of Nazi invincibility.

      21

      Ten years later appellee Michael MacDonald Mooney published his book, The Hindenburg. [618 F.2d 976] Mooney's endeavor might be characterized as more literary than historical in its attempt to weave a number of symbolic themes through the actual events surrounding the tragedy. His dominant theme contrasts the natural beauty of the month of May, when the disaster occurred, with the cold, deliberate progress of "technology." The May theme is expressed not simply by the season, but also by the character of Spehl, portrayed as a sensitive artisan with needle and thread. The Hindenburg, in contrast, is the symbol of technology, as are its German creators and the Reich itself. The destruction is depicted as the ultimate triumph of nature over technology, as Spehl plants the bomb that ignites the hydrogen. Developing this theme from the outset, Mooney begins with an extended review of man's efforts to defy nature through flight, focusing on the evolution of the zeppelin. This story culminates in the construction of the Hindenburg, and the Nazis' claims of its indestructibility. Mooney then traces the fateful voyage, advising the reader almost immediately of Spehl's scheme. The book concludes with the airship's explosion.

      22

      Mooney acknowledges, in this case, that he consulted Hoehling's book, and that he relied on it for some details. He asserts that he first discovered the "Spehl-as-saboteur" theory when he read Titler's Wings of Mystery. Indeed, Titler concludes that Spehl was the saboteur, for essentially the reasons stated by Hoehling. Mooney also claims to have studied the complete National Archives and New York Times files concerning the Hindenburg, as well as all previously published material. Moreover, he traveled to Germany, visited Spehl's birthplace, and conducted a number of interviews with survivors.

      23

      After Mooney prepared an outline of his anticipated book, his publisher succeeded in negotiations to sell the motion picture rights to appellee Universal City Studios.[2] Universal then commissioned a screen story by writers Levinson and Link, best known for their television series, Columbo, in which a somewhat disheveled, but wise detective unravels artfully conceived murder mysteries. In their screen story, Levinson and Link created a Columbo-like character who endeavored to identify the saboteur on board the Hindenburg. Director Robert Wise, however, was not satisfied with this version, and called upon Nelson Gidding to write a final screenplay. Gidding, it will be recalled, had engaged in preliminary work on a film about the Hindenburg almost twenty years earlier.

      24

      The Gidding screenplay follows what is known in the motion picture industry as a "Grand Hotel" formula, developing a number of fictional characters and subplots involving them. This formula has become standard fare in so-called "disaster" movies, which have enjoyed a certain popularity in recent years. In the film, which was released in late 1975, a rigger named "Boerth," who has an anti-Nazi ladyfriend, plans to destroy the airship in an effort to embarrass the Reich. Nazi officials, vaguely aware of sabotage threats, station a Luftwaffe intelligence officer on the zeppelin, loosely resembling a Colonel Erdmann who was aboard the Hindenburg. This character is portrayed as a likable fellow who soon discovers that Boerth is the saboteur. Boerth, however, convinces him that the Hindenburg should be destroyed and the two join forces, planning the explosion for several hours after the landing at Lakehurst, when no people would be on board. In Gidding's version, the airship is delayed by a storm, frantic efforts to defuse the bomb fail, and the Hindenburg is destroyed. The film's subplots involve other possible suspects, including a fictional countess who has had her estate expropriated by the Reich, two fictional confidence men wanted [618 F.2d 977] by New York City police, and an advertising executive rushing to close a business deal in America.

      25

      Upon learning of Universal's plans to release the film, Hoehling instituted this action against Universal for copyright infringement and common law unfair competition in the district court for the District of Columbia in October 1975. Judge Smith declined to issue an order restraining release of the film in December, and it was distributed throughout the nation.

      26

      In January 1976, Hoehling sought to amend his complaint to include Mooney as a defendant. The district court, however, decided that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Mooney.[3] In June 1976, Hoehling again attempted to amend his complaint, this time to add Mooney's publishers as defendants. Judge Smith denied this motion as well, but granted Hoehling's request to transfer the litigation to the Southern District of New York, 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), where Mooney himself was successfully included as a party. Judge Metzner, with the assistance of Magistrate Sinclair, supervised extensive discovery through most of 1978. After the completion of discovery, both Mooney and Universal moved for summary judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, which was granted on August 1, 1979.

      27
      II.
      28

      It is undisputed that Hoehling has a valid copyright in his book. To prove infringement, however, he must demonstrate that defendants "copied" his work and that they "improperly appropriated" his "expression." See Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir. 1946). Ordinarily, wrongful appropriation is shown by proving a "substantial similarity" of copyrightable expression. See Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir. 1930), cert. denied, 282 U.S. 902, 51 S.Ct. 216, 75 L.Ed. 795 (1931). Because substantial similarity is customarily an extremely close question of fact, see Arnstein, supra, 154 F.2d at 468, summary judgment has traditionally been frowned upon in copyright litigation, id. at 474. Nevertheless, while Arnstein 's influence in other areas of the law has been diminished, see SEC v. Research Automation Corp., 585 F.2d 31 (2d Cir. 1978); 6 Moore's Federal Practice P 56.17(14) (2d ed. 1976), a series of copyright cases in the Southern District of New York have granted defendants summary judgment when all alleged similarity related to non -copyrightable elements of the plaintiff's work, see, e. g., Alexander v. Haley, 460 F.Supp. 40 (S.D.N.Y.1978); Musto v. Meyer, 434 F.Supp. 32 (S.D.N.Y.1977); Gardner v. Nizer, 391 F.Supp. 940 (S.D.N.Y.1975); Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., 390 F.Supp. 877 (S.D.N.Y.1975). These cases signal an important development in the law of copyright, permitting courts to put "a swift end to meritless litigation" and to avoid lengthy and costly trials. Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp., 613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir. 1980); accord, Donnelly v. Guion, 467 F.2d 290, 293 (2d Cir. 1972); American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Co. v. American Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc., 388 F.2d 272, 278 (2d Cir. 1967). Drawing on these cases, Judge Metzner assumed both copying and substantial similarity, but concluded that all similarities pertained to various categories of non-copyrightable material. Accordingly, he granted appellees' motion for summary judgment. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

      29
      A
      30

      Hoehling's principal claim is that both Mooney and Universal copied the essential plot of his book i. e., Eric Spehl, influenced by his girlfriend, sabotaged the Hindenburg by placing a crude bomb in Gas Cell 4. In their briefs, and at oral argument, appellees have labored to convince us that their plots are not substantially similar to Hoehling's. While Hoehling's Spehl destroys the airship to please his communist girlfriend, Mooney's character is motivated by an aversion to the technological age. Universal's [618 F.2d 978] Boerth, on the other hand, is a fervent anti-fascist who enlists the support of a Luftwaffe colonel who, in turn, unsuccessfully attempts to defuse the bomb at the eleventh hour.

      31

      Although this argument has potential merit when presented to a fact finder adjudicating the issue of substantial similarity, it is largely irrelevant to a motion for summary judgment where the issue of substantial similarity has been eliminated by the judge's affirmative assumption. Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Accord, Heyman v. Commerce & Industry Insurance Co., 524 F.2d 1317 (2d Cir. 1975). Perhaps recognizing this, appellees further argue that Hoehling's plot is an "idea," and ideas are not copyrightable as a matter of law. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 54 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835, 80 L.Ed. 1392 (1936).

      32

      Hoehling, however, correctly rejoins that while ideas themselves are not subject to copyright, his "expression" of his idea is copyrightable. Id. at 54. He relies on Learned Hand's opinion in Sheldon, supra, at 50, holding that Letty Lynton infringed Dishonored Lady by copying its story of a woman who poisons her lover, and Augustus Hand's analysis in Detective Comics, Inc. v. Bruns Publications, Inc., 111 F.2d 432 (2d Cir. 1940), concluding that the exploits of "Wonderman" infringed the copyright held by the creators of "Superman," the original indestructible man. Moreover, Hoehling asserts that, in both these cases, the line between "ideas" and "expression" is drawn, in the first instance, by the fact finder.

      33

      Sheldon and Detective Comics, however, dealt with works of fiction,[4] where the distinction between an idea and its expression is especially elusive. But, where, as here, the idea at issue is an interpretation of an historical event, our cases hold that such interpretations are not copyrightable as a matter of law. In Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc., 366 F.2d 303 (2d Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 1009, 87 S.Ct. 714, 17 L.Ed.2d 546 (1967), we held that the defendant's biography of Howard Hughes did not infringe an earlier biography of the reclusive alleged billionaire. Although the plots of the two works were necessarily similar, there could be no infringement because of the "public benefit in encouraging the development of historical and biographical works and their public distribution." Id. at 307; accord, Oxford Book Co. v. College Entrance Book Co., 98 F.2d 688 (2d Cir. 1938). To avoid a chilling effect on authors who contemplate tackling an historical issue or event, broad latitude must be granted to subsequent authors who make use of historical subject matter, including theories or plots. Learned Hand counseled in Myers v. Mail & Express Co., 36 C.O.Bull. 478, 479 (S.D.N.Y.1919), "(t)here cannot be any such thing as copyright in the order of presentation of the facts, nor, indeed, in their selection."[5]

      34

      In the instant case, the hypothesis that Eric Spehl destroyed the Hindenburg is based entirely on the interpretation of historical facts, including Spehl's life, his girlfriend's anti-Nazi connections, the explosion's origin in Gas Cell 4, Spehl's duty station, discovery of a dry-cell battery [618 F.2d 979] among the wreckage, and rumors about Spehl's involvement dating from a 1938 Gestapo investigation. Such an historical interpretation, whether or not it originated with Mr. Hoehling, is not protected by his copyright and can be freely used by subsequent authors.

      35
      B
      36

      The same reasoning governs Hoehling's claim that a number of specific facts, ascertained through his personal research, were copied by appellees.[6] The cases in this circuit, however, make clear that factual information is in the public domain. See, e. g., Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 309; Oxford Book Co., supra, 98 F.2d at 691. Each appellee had the right to "avail himself of the facts contained" in Hoehling's book and to "use such information, whether correct or incorrect, in his own literary work." Greenbie v. Noble, 151 F.Supp. 45, 67 (S.D.N.Y.1957). Accordingly, there is little consolation in relying on cases in other circuits holding that the fruits of original research are copyrightable. See, e. g., Toksvig v. Bruce Publications Corp., 181 F.2d 664, 667 (7th Cir. 1950); Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 460 F.Supp. 984 (S.D.Fla.1978). Indeed, this circuit has clearly repudiated Toksvig and its progeny. In Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 310, we refused to "subscribe to the view that an author is absolutely precluded from saving time and effort by referring to and relying upon prior published material. . . . It is just such wasted effort that the proscription against the copyright of ideas and facts . . . . are designed to prevent." Accord, 1 Nimmer on Copyright § 2.11 (1979).

      37
      C
      38

      The remainder of Hoehling's claimed similarities relate to random duplications of phrases and sequences of events. For example, all three works contain a scene in a German beer hall, in which the airship's crew engages in revelry prior to the voyage. Other claimed similarities concern common German greetings of the period, such as "Heil Hitler," or songs, such as the German National anthem. These elements, however, are merely scenes a faire, that is, "incidents, characters or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least standard, in the treatment of a given topic." Alexander, supra, 460 F.Supp. at 45; accord, Bevan v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 329 F.Supp. 601, 607 (S.D.N.Y.1971). Because it is virtually impossible to write about a particular historical era or fictional theme without employing certain "stock" or standard literary devices, we have held that scenes a faire are not copyrightable as a matter of law. See Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 980, 97 S.Ct. 492, 50 L.Ed.2d 588 (1976).

      39
      D
      40

      All of Hoehling's allegations of copying, therefore, encompass material that is non-copyrightable as a matter of law, rendering summary judgment entirely appropriate. We are aware, however, that in distinguishing between themes, facts, and scenes a faire on the one hand, and copyrightable expression on the other, courts may lose sight of the forest for the trees. By factoring out similarities based on non-copyrightable elements, a court runs the [618 F.2d 980] risk of overlooking wholesale usurpation of a prior author's expression. A verbatim reproduction of another work, of course, even in the realm of nonfiction, is actionable as copyright infringement. See Wainwright Securities, Inc. v. Wall Street Transcript Corp., 558 F.2d 91 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1014, 98 S.Ct. 730 (1978). Thus, in granting or reviewing a grant of summary judgment for defendants, courts should assure themselves that the works before them are not virtually identical. In this case, it is clear that all three authors relate the story of the Hindenburg differently.

      41

      In works devoted to historical subjects, it is our view that a second author may make significant use of prior work, so long as he does not bodily appropriate the expression of another. Rosemont Enterprises, Inc., supra, 366 F.2d at 310. This principle is justified by the fundamental policy undergirding the copyright laws the encouragement of contributions to recorded knowledge. The "financial reward guaranteed to the copyright holder is but an incident of this general objective, rather than an end in itself." Berlin v. E. C. Publications, Inc., 329 F.2d 541, 543-44 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 822, 85 S.Ct. 46, 13 L.Ed.2d 33 (1964). Knowledge is expanded as well by granting new authors of historical works a relatively free hand to build upon the work of their predecessors.[7]

      42
      III
      43

      Finally, we affirm Judge Metzner's rejection of Hoehling's claims based on the common law of "unfair competition." Where, as here, historical facts, themes, and research have been deliberately exempted from the scope of copyright protection to vindicate the overriding goal of encouraging contributions to recorded knowledge, the states are pre-empted from removing such material from the public domain. See, e. g., Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, 83 S.Ct. 1868, 10 L.Ed.2d 1050 (1964); Compco Corp. v. Day-Brite Lighting, Inc., 376 U.S. 234, 84 S.Ct. 779, 11 L.Ed.2d 669 (1964). "To forbid copying" in this case, "would interfere with the federal policy . . . of allowing free access to copy whatever the federal patent and copyright laws leave in the public domain." Id. at 237, 84 S.Ct. at 782.

      44

      The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

      45

      ---------------

      46

      [*] Of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation.

      47

      [1] Titler's account was published after the release of appellant's book. In an affidavit in this litigation, Titler states that he copied Hoehling's theory of sabotage. Hoehling, however, has never instituted a copyright action against Titler.

      48

      [2] Mooney, his publishers, and Universal entered into an agreement under which (1) Universal acquired the film rights to Mooney's book, (2) Universal agreed to promote sales of the book, and (3) Mooney would receive a percentage fee, tied to sales of his book. Hoehling claims that because of this arrangement, Universal is vicariously liable if Mooney's book, but not the motion picture, is held to infringe his copyright. In view of our disposition of the appeal, however, we need not address this issue.

      49

      [3] At the same time, Judge Smith denied Universal's motion for summary judgment, concluding it was inappropriate prior to the completion of requested discovery.

      50

      [4] In Sheldon, both works were loosely based on an actual murder committed by a young Scottish girl. Judge Hand, however, clearly dealt only with the fictional plots conceived by the respective authors. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 54 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835, 80 L.Ed. 1392 (1936).

      51

      [5] This circuit has permitted extensive reliance on prior works of history. See, e. g., Gardner v. Nizer, 391 F.Supp. 940 (S.D.N.Y.1975) (the story of the Rosenberg trial not copyrightable); Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., 390 F.Supp. 877 (S.D.N.Y.1975) ("Bugsy" Siegel's life story not copyrightable); Greenbie v. Noble, 151 F.Supp. 45 (S.D.N.Y.1957) (the life of Anna Carroll, a member of Lincoln's cabinet, not copyrightable). The commentators are in accord with this view. See, e. g. 1 Nimmer on Copyright § 2.11(A) (1979); Chafee, Reflections on the Law of Copyright: I, 45 Colum.L.Rev. 503, 511 (1945).

      52

      [6] In detailed comparisons of his book with Mooney's work and Universal's motion picture, Hoehling isolates 266 and 75 alleged instances of copying, respectively. Judge Metzner correctly pointed out that many of these allegations are patently frivolous. The vast majority of the remainder deals with alleged copying of historical facts. It would serve no purpose to review Hoehling's specific allegations in detail in this opinion. The following ten examples, however, are illustrative: (1) Eric Spehl's age and birthplace; (2) Crew members had smuggled monkeys on board the Graf Zeppelin; (3) Germany's ambassador to the United States dismissed threats of sabotage; (4) A warning letter had been received from a Mrs. Rauch; (5) The Hindenburg's captain was constructing a new home in Zeppelinheim; (6) Eric Spehl was a photographer; (7) The airship flew over Boston; (8) The Hindenburg was "tail heavy" before landing; (9) A member of the ground crew had etched his name in the zeppelin's hull; and (10) The navigator set the Hindenburg's course by reference to various North Atlantic islands.

      53

      [7] We note that publication of Mooney's book and release of the motion picture revived long dormant interest in the Hindenburg. As a result, Hoehling's book, which had been out of print for some time, was actually re-released after the film was featured in theaters across the country.

    • 1.5 Alexander v. Haley, 460 F.Supp. 40 (S.D.N.Y. 1978)

      1

      460 F. Supp. 40

      2
      Margaret Walker ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
      v.
      Alex HALEY, Doubleday & Company, Inc., and Doubleday Publishing Company, Defendants.
      3

      Nos. 77 Civ. 1907 (M.E.F.), 77 Civ. 1908 (M.E.F.).
      United States District Court, S. D. New York.
      September 20, 1978.
      As Amended September 21, 1978.

      4

      [42] Gilbert A. Holmes, New York City, Brown, Alexander & Sanders, Jackson, Miss., for plaintiff; Firnist J. Alexander, Jr., Everett T. Sanders, Jackson, Miss., of counsel.

      5

      Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon, New York City, for defendant Alex Haley; George Berger, New York City, of counsel.

      6

      Satterlee & Stephens, New York City, for defendants Doubleday & Co., Inc., and Doubleday Publishing Co.; Robert M. Callagy, New York City, of counsel.

      7

      OPINION

      8

      FRANKEL, District Judge.

      9

      Defendants' motions for summary judgment were held by the court pending an evidentiary hearing and report by Magistrate Gershon on one possibly material question of fact. The reports and recommendations are now before the court along with comments and objections by the parties. Upon all the original submissions, as thus amplified, the court concludes that defendants' motions should be granted.

      10
      I.
      11

      The plaintiff, Margaret Walker Alexander, initiated twin copyright infringement and unfair competition actions against Alex Haley and Doubleday Publishing Company and Doubleday & Co., Inc., his publishers, based upon alleged similarities between the book Roots, written by Haley, and the novel Jubilee and the pamphlet How I Wrote Jubilee ("HIWJ"), both written by the plaintiff. Jubilee was copyrighted in 1966, and HIWJ in 1972. The copyright for Roots was registered in 1976, although a portion of the material which later became Roots appeared under copyright in The Reader's Digest in 1974.

      12

      Both Roots and Jubilee are amalgams of fact and fiction derived from the sombre history of black slavery in the United States. Each purports to be at least loosely based on the lives of the author's own forbears. Differences in scope are, however, more striking than the similarities. Jubilee is a historical novel which recounts the life of Vyry (described as the author's great grandmother) starting around 1835, from her childhood and early adulthood in slavery, through the Civil War years and into Reconstruction. The novel is divided roughly into thirds, marked out by the beginning and the end of the Civil War. HIWJ, as its title suggests, is an account of the author's career, including her awakening interest in her family's and people's past, her many years of research, her struggle to complete the manuscript amidst other obligations, and an explanation of the mixture of fact and fiction in Jubilee.

      13

      Roots covers a much broader canvas, commencing its narrative in Africa and continuing through multiple generations of a single family, described as the ancestors of the author. The story commences in about 1750 and continues through the birth and life of the author. Well over a fifth of the book is set in Africa, and approximately three-quarters covers a period antedating the time of Jubilee. In the closing pages the author relates the story of his own life, the evolution of his concern with his family's past, his developing interest in writing, his research and the completion of his manuscript. Particular emphasis is placed upon an account of the trail the author says was followed to the unearthing of the African roots of his family tree.

      14
      II.
      15

      The case came before the court initially on defendants' motions for summary [43] judgment. In order to succeed in her claims of infringement plaintiff has the burden of proving two elements: actual copying of her works by the defendant and substantial similarity between the accused work and the original. Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir. 1946); Heim v. Universal Pictures Co., 154 F.2d 480, 487 (2d Cir. 1946). Actual copying may be established by direct proof or by proof of access plus a demonstration of similarities or other factors circumstantially evidencing copying. Arnstein v. Porter, supra, 154 F.2d at 468.

      16

      Recognizing that the question of actual copying is not susceptible of resolution on papers, defendants chose to proffer a concession of this element to clear the way for a motion predicated on the argument that the kind of similarities relied upon by the plaintiff are not actionable as a matter of law. Finding the defendants' papers highly compelling, the court was nonetheless reluctant to decide the motion solely on the papers concerning the question of similarity, doubting that this question is necessarily sealed off hermetically from the question of copying on which defendants offered to concede arguendo.[1] Cf. MacDonald v. Du Maurier, 144 F.2d 696, 701 (2d Cir. 1944); Dellar v. Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., 104 F.2d 661 (2d Cir. 1939). As against the proposed concession, plaintiff pressed for an opportunity "to demonstrate the strength of her case on copying." Perhaps out of excessive caution, but believing at any rate that the case should be as ripe as possible for decision here and on appeal, the court concluded that an evidentiary record should be made on that subject. Accordingly, the court declined to adopt the proffered concession and referred the charge of actual copying to Magistrate Gershon pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), to hold an evidentiary hearing and report recommended findings and conclusions. The order of reference directed that the Magistrate was to consider only direct proof of access and copying. The court reserved to itself the issue of substantial similarity and the question of whether any similarities supported an inference of actual copying from proof of access, should the latter be established before the Magistrate.

      17
      III.
      18

      The Magistrate has reported that the plaintiff has met her burden of proof as to the defendant Haley's access to Jubilee, but has failed to establish this essential element of her prima facie case as to HIWJ. Both recommended findings are fully supported by the record, and are adopted by the court.[2]

      19

      But this carries plaintiff only a small and totally insufficient way toward the vindication of her claims. Upon the record as a [44] whole, including the helpful Report, if it were necessary to do so, the court would now be prepared to find that Haley did not in fact copy anything, or attempt to copy anything, or inadvertently reproduce anything, from plaintiff's works. But even that is not necessary now to defeat plaintiff's charges. What is decisive is that, after full opportunity to portray the strength of her accusation of copying, plaintiff has failed. She has shown access to her novel, if not her pamphlet, and, as will appear, a catalogue of alleged similarities that is strained, insignificant, and devoid of factual or legal substance. Apart from Haley's wholly credible denials of copying, we are now comfortably past any speculation as to possible interrelations between the issue as to copying and the issue, on which defendants moved, as to substantial similarities. Whether or not these issues can be always and everywhere tightly separated, it is clear now that there is no trace of "spillover" in plaintiff's favor from the claim of copying to the claim of similarities sufficient in law to ground a charge of infringement. If, as is now to be recorded, the court would decide the latter issue, standing alone, for defendants, that ruling is now ripe as a basis for summary judgment without any lurking concern whether a mere "concession" as to copying for the sake of argument might serve to obscure factors pointing toward a different result.

      20
      IV.
      21

      In order to demonstrate the alleged similarity between Roots on the one hand and Jubilee and HIWJ on the other, plaintiff submitted several sets of affidavits and answers to interrogatories setting forth passages from Roots along with passages from the plaintiff's works, with certain portions underscored to highlight the asserted similarities. Plaintiff also submitted an affidavit commenting seriatim on the alleged similarities.

      22

      After consideration of each of the numerous similarities suggested in the plaintiff's submissions, the court concludes that none supports the claim of infringement. By this the court means both that (1) no support is given to the claim of copying by such similarity as is shown,[3] and (2) that the claimed similarities do not, as a matter of law, constitute actionable substantial similarity between the works.[4]

      23

      Substantial similarity is ordinarily a question of fact, not subject to resolution on a motion for summary judgment. Arnstein v. Porter, supra, 154 F.2d at 469. In the instant case, however, defendants' argument is that such similarities as are claimed by the plaintiff are irrelevant because they relate solely to aspects of the plaintiff's works which are not protectable by copyright. The law seems clear that summary judgment may be granted when such circumstances are demonstrated. Gardner v. Nizer, 391 F.Supp. 940 (S.D.N.Y.1975); Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., 390 F.Supp. 877 (S.D.N.Y.1975); Gethers v. Blatty, 283 F.Supp. 303, 305 (C.D.Cal.1968); Consumers Union Inc. v. Hobart Manufacturing Co., 199 F.Supp. 860, 861 (S.D.N.Y. 1961); Buckler v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 133 F.Supp. 223 (S.D.N.Y.1955); Millstein v. Leland Hayward, Inc., 10 F.R.D. 198, 199 (S.D.N.Y.1950). Cf. Bevan v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 329 F.Supp. 601 (S.D.N.Y.1971).

      24

      The court agrees with defendants; each of the similarities asserted by the plaintiff is in one or more of several categories of attributes of written work which are not subject to the protection of the copyright laws.

      25

      Many of the claimed similarities are based on matters of historical or contemporary [45] fact.[5] No claim of copyright protection can arise from the fact that plaintiff has written about such historical and factual items, even if we were to assume that Haley was alerted to the facts in question by reading Jubilee. See Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc., 366 F.2d 303, 309 (2d Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 385 U.S. 1009, 87 S.Ct. 714, 17 L.Ed.2d 546 (1967); Gardner v. Nizer, supra, 391 F.Supp. at 942; Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., supra, 390 F.Supp. at 882; Greenbie v. Noble, 151 F.Supp. 45, 65-66 (S.D.N.Y.1957); Lake v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 140 F.Supp. 707, 708-09 (S.D.Cal.1956).

      26

      Another major category of items consists of material traceable to common sources, the public domain, or folk custom. Thus, a number of the claimed infringements are embodiments of the cultural history of black Americans, or of both black and white Americans playing out the cruel tragedy of white-imposed slavery.[6] Where common sources exist for the alleged similarities, or the material that is similar is otherwise not original with the plaintiff, there is no infringement. Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., supra, 390 F.Supp. at 877; Costello v. Loew's Inc., 159 F.Supp. 782 (S.D.N.Y.1958); Greenbie v. Noble, supra, 151 F.Supp. at 65. This group of asserted infringements can no more be the subject of copyright protection than the use of a date or the name of a president or a more conventional piece of historical information.

      27

      A third species of the alleged similarities constitutes what have been called scenes a faire. Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir. 1976). These are incidents, characters or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least standard, in the treatment of a given topic. Attempted escapes, flights through the woods pursued by baying dogs, the sorrowful or happy singing of slaves, the atrocity of the buying and selling of human beings, and other miseries are all found in stories at least as old as Mrs. Stowe's. This is not, and could not be, an offense to any author. Nobody writes books of purely original content. In any event, the plaintiff misconceives the protections of the copyright law in her listing of infringements by including such scenes a faire.[7] Reyher v. Children's Television [46] Workshop, supra; Fuld v. National Broadcasting Co., supra, 300 F.Supp. at 881; Greenbie v. Noble, supra, 151 F.Supp. at 65, 69; Warshawsky v. Carter, 132 F.Supp. 758, 760 (D.D.C.1955).

      28

      Yet another group of alleged infringements is best described as cliched language, metaphors and the very words of which the language is constructed. Words and metaphors are not subject to copyright protection; nor are phrases and expressions conveying an idea that can only be, or is typically, expressed in a limited number of stereotyped fashions. Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, supra, 533 F.2d at 91; Bein v. Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc., 105 F.2d 969 (2d Cir. 1939); Richards v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 161 F.Supp. 516, 518 (D.D.C.1958). Cf. Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir. 1971). Nor is the later use of stock ideas copyright infringement. Bevan v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., supra, 329 F.Supp. 601, at 606; Burnett v. Lambino, 204 F.Supp. 327, 332 (S.D.N.Y. 1962); Echevarria v. Warner Brothers Pictures, Inc., 12 F.Supp. 632, 635 (S.D.Cal. 1935); Lowenfels v. Nathan, 2 F.Supp. 73, 80 (S.D.N.Y.1934). Plaintiff collides with these principles over and over again as she extracts widely scattered passages from her book and pamphlet, and juxtaposes them against similarly scattered portions of Haley's Roots, only to demonstrate the use by both authors of obvious terms to describe expectable scenes.[8]

      29

      Other alleged infringements display no similarity at all in terms of expression or language, but show at most some similarity of theme or setting.[9] These items, the skeleton of a creative work rather than the flesh, are not protected by the copyright laws. Dellar v. Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., 150 F.2d 612 (2d Cir. 1945), cert. denied, 327 U.S. 790, 66 S.Ct. 802, 90 L.Ed. 1016 (1946). It is only the means of expressing these elements that is protected by the copyright laws. Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, supra, 533 F.2d at 91; Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Honora Jewelry Co., 509 F.2d 64, 64-65 (2d Cir. 1974).

      30

      Finally, some of the allegations of similarity are seen upon inspecting the books to be totally and palpably devoid of any factual basis. Cf. Arnstein v. Porter, supra, 154 F.2d at 473.[10]

      31

      Every one of the alleged similarities between the plaintiff's two works and the defendants' book falls into at least one of the aforementioned categories of non-actionable material. Many fall into more than one. The review of the alleged similarities points unmistakably to the conclusion that no actionable similarities exist between the works.

      32
      V.
      33

      The plaintiff has advanced claims of unfair competition in addition to her [47] claims of infringement. The facts alleged for the alternative theories are the same and are insufficient for the same reasons. Gethers v. Blatty, supra, 283 F.Supp. at 307; Miller v. Goody, 139 F.Supp. 176, 187 (S.D. N.Y.1956), rev'd on other grounds, 248 F.2d 260 (2d Cir. 1957); Columbia Pictures Corp. v. National Broadcasting Co., 137 F.Supp. 348, 354 (S.D.Cal.1955); Alexander v. Irving Trust Co., 132 F.Supp. 364, 368 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd 228 F.2d 221 (2d Cir. 1955), cert. denied, 350 U.S. 966, 76 S.Ct. 545, 100 L.Ed. 860 (1956). Consumers Union v. Hobart Manufacturing Co., supra, 199 F.Supp. 860, 862, wherein summary judgment was granted on an infringement claim but denied on an unfair competition claim, is not to the contrary. In Consumers Union there were factual allegations regarding allegedly unfair competitive practices extrinsic to the infringement claimed. No such allegations appear in the instant actions.

      34

      The defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted. The complaints are dismissed.

      35

      It is so ordered.

      36

      --------

      37

      Notes:

      38

      [1] Looking at things from the opposite direction, it is commonplace that similarity may be probative of copying. Arnstein v. Porter, supra, 154 F.2d at 468.

      39

      [2] In objecting to the Magistrate's Report, counsel for plaintiff have deviated more often than they should from fundamental rules of evidence and procedure. Their objections arrived late, and should perhaps be ruled out of consideration altogether, as defendants suggest. Though that drastic course is not followed, other blemishes must be noted and improper portions disregarded. Having had ample opportunity to be at the evidentiary hearing, plaintiff did not testify there. It was indicated that she might appear on rebuttal or be available to defendants if they wanted her. It was never intimated that she wished to testify and could not, or that she might desire an adjournment for such a purpose. Now, with the hearing long closed, she submits an affidavit on the issue of access, observing toward the end: "Because of my husband's illness, I was unable to attend the Evidentiary hearing in this cause." This won't do. She could have been deposed. She could have sought other relief. Her affidavit will be given no weight. If it were weighed, it might have negative impact anyhow. One startling aspect is its verbatim quotation of what is sworn to have been a letter from defendant Haley. No copy is attached.

      40

      In a comparably informal fashion, plaintiff's counsel include in their objections an alleged quotation of the defendant Haley from Playboy Magazine. But this was offered at the hearing, after Mr. Haley had testified, and objected to. The offer was withdrawn.

      41

      Then, the same set of objections appends a purported analysis of another lawsuit in The Village Voice. This was not offered at the hearing. It certainly has no place here now.

      42

      [3] Thus further failing to support the element defendants were willing to concede for this motion.

      43

      [4] So that, in the strict logic defendants pursued from the outset, plaintiff would lose even if she had proved copying. The logic was not unsound. But if the court has proceeded properly, this may be another case of the kind in which logic alone is not enough.

      44

      [5] This category covers a large number of what plaintiff cites as assertedly infringing passages. For instance, the passages from page 32 of Jubilee and page 521 of Roots cited by the plaintiff share only a reference to New Orleans and the women of mixed race found there. Another example reveals only two treatments of the theme of the westward movement and settlement in the United States (Jubilee, p. 43; Roots, pp. 287, 595.) Yet another is based on the historical fact of slave uprisings and the repressive measures taken to combat them. (Jubilee, pp. 51, 83; Roots, pp. 279, 282.) The record is replete with other examples which the court need not discuss. See, e. g., Jubilee, p. 91, Roots, p. 277 (Quakers as abolitionists); Jubilee, p. 146, Roots, p. 282 (process of manumission); Jubilee, p. 184, Roots, p. 626; Jubilee, p. 19, Roots, p. 373; Jubilee, p. 47, Roots, p. 429; Jubilee, p. 82, Roots, p. 387; Jubilee, p. 192, Roots, p. 572; HIWJ, p. 18, Roots, p. 671. This listing, like those that follow, is not intended to be exhaustive. With respect to each category, the court has made the judgment reported — that the instances embraced are non-actionable because they are thus classifiable under at least one such heading.

      45

      [6] One example is the references to laying out the body of a deceased on a "cooling board." (Jubilee, pp. 68-69; Roots, p. 355.) Uncontroverted affidavits show that this is an authentic piece of folk custom. See, also, Jubilee, p. 110, Roots, p. 518 (folk herbal medicines); Jubilee, p. 119, Roots, pp. 562-63 (cockfighting); Jubilee, p. 143, Roots, p. 310 ("jumping the broom" as a folk rite of marriage); Jubilee, p. 285, Roots, p. 644; Jubilee, p. 20, Roots, p. 364; Jubilee, p. 341, Roots, p. 365; Jubilee, p. 339, Roots, p. 247; Jubilee, p. 319, Roots, p. 212; Jubilee, p. 484, Roots, p. 327; Jubilee, p. 39, Roots, p. 383; Jubilee, p. 98, Roots, p. 396; Jubilee, p. 36, Roots, pp. 236, 438; Jubilee, p. 138, Roots, p. 439; Jubilee p. 100, Roots, p. 480; Jubilee, pp. 67, 83, 100, Roots, p. 418.

      46

      [7] Examples include scenes portraying sex between male slaveowners and female slaves and the resentment of the female slave owners (Jubilee, p. 44, Roots, p. 436); the sale of a slave child away from her family and the attendant agonies (Jubilee, pp. 84-85, Roots, pp. 424-26); the horror of punitive mutilation (Jubilee, p. 114, Roots, p. 224); and slave owners complaining about the high price of slaves (Jubilee, p. 113, Roots, p. 397). See, also, Jubilee, p. 145, Roots, p. 403; Jubilee, p. 169, Roots, p. 232; Jubilee, pp. 172-73, Roots, p. 234; Jubilee, pp. 278-280, Roots, p. 644; Jubilee, p. 328, Roots, p. 649; Jubilee, p. 461, Roots, p. 361; HIWJ, p. 12, Roots, p. 664.

      47

      [8] Among the many examples are: "poor white trash" (Jubilee, p. 60, Roots, p. 294), and the fluffiness of cotton (Jubilee, p. 36, Roots, pp. 205, 207, 236). See, also, Jubilee, pp. 25-26, Roots, pp. 204, 221; Jubilee, p. 149, Roots, p. 435; Jubilee, p. 164, Roots, p. 243; Jubilee, p. 199, Roots, p. 628; Jubilee, p. 172, Roots, p. 209; HIWJ, pp. 15-16, Roots, pp. 673-75; Jubilee, p. 22, Roots, pp. 677, 679; HIWJ, p. 24, Roots, p. 686.

      48

      [9] Examples of such alleged similarities include descriptions of puberty (Jubilee, pp. 53-54, Roots, pp. 412-13); hypocrisy in sermons delivered to slaves (Jubilee, p. 123, Roots, p. 451); and sexuality among the young (Jubilee, p. 136, Roots, p. 444). See, also, Jubilee, pp. 71, 80, Roots, pp. 449-453; Jubilee, p. 104, Roots, p. 594; Jubilee, p. 137, Roots, p. 265; Jubilee, p. 290, Roots, p. 219; Jubilee, p. 93, Roots, p. 210; HIWJ, p. 12, Roots, p. 668; HIWJ, p. 19, Roots, p. 682.

      49

      [10] A good example is found in the allegedly similar passages at page 48 of Jubilee and pages 226-227 of Roots. Plaintiff claims that both concern secret organized religious meetings, but the scene in Roots does not portray an organized meeting, nor is the gathering secret or religious in nature. See, also, Jubilee, p. 179, Roots, p. 358; Jubilee, p. 83, Roots, p. 290; Jubilee, pp. 460, 496, 440, Roots, p. 327; Jubilee, pp. 129-130, Roots, p. 358.

  • 2 Fixation

    • 2.1 Cartoon Network LP v. CSC Holdings, Inc., 536 F.3d 121 (2d Cir. 2008) [Background and Part I]

      1

      536 F.3d 121

      2
      The CARTOON NETWORK LP, LLLP and Cable News Network L.P., L.L.L.P., Plaintiffs-Counter-Claimants-Defendants-Appellees,
      Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions LLLP, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Disney Enterprises Inc., CBS Broadcasting Inc., American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., NBC Studios, Inc., Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees,
      v.
      CSC HOLDINGS, INC. and Cablevision Systems Corporation, Defendants-Counterclaim-Plaintiffs-Third-Party Plaintiffs-Appellants,
      v.
      Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., Cable News Network LP, LLP, Turner Network Sales, Inc., Turner Classic Movies, L.P., LLLP, Turner Network Television LP, LLLP, Third-Party-Defendants-Appellees.
      3

      Docket No. 07-1480-cv(L).
      Docket No. 07-1511-cv(CON).
      United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
      Argued: October 24, 2007.
      Decided: August 4, 2008.

      4

      [122] Jeffrey A. Lamken (Robert K. Kry and Joshua A. Klein, on the brief), Baker Botts L.L.P., Washington, D.C., and Timothy A. Macht (on the brief), New York, N.Y., for Defendants-Appellants.

      5

      Katherine B. Forrest (Antony L. Ryan, on the brief), Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, New York, N.Y., for Plaintiffs-Appellees The Cartoon Network LP, LLLP, et al.

      6

      Robert Alan Garrett (Hadrian R. Katz, Jon Michaels, Peter L. Zimroth, and Eleanor Lackman, on the brief), Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, D.C., for Plaintiffs-Appellees Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, et al.

      7

      Marc E. Isserles, Cohen & Gresser LLP, New York, N.Y., for Amici Curiae Law Professors.

      8

      Henry A. Lanman, Trachtenberg Rodes & Friedberg LLP, New York, N.Y., for Amicus Curiae Professor Timothy Wu.

      9

      Solveig Singleton, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Progress & Freedom Foundation.

      10

      Carol A. Witschel, White & Case LLP, and Richard H. Reimer, New York, N.Y., for Amicus Curiae The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers.

      11

      Michael E. Salzman, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, and Marvin Berenson, Broadcast Music Inc., New York, N.Y., for Amicus Curiae Broadcast Music, Inc.

      12

      David Sohn, Center for Democracy & Technology, Washington, D.C., Fred von Lohman, Electronic Freedom Foundation, San Francisco, Cal., Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge, Washington D.C., William P. Heaston, Broadband Service Providers Association Regulatory Committee, Jonathan Band PLLC, Washington, D.C., Julie

      13

      [123] Kearney, Consumer Electronics Association, Arlington, Va., Michael F. Altschul et al., CTIA-The Wireless Association®, Washington, D.C., Jonathan Banks, USTelecom, Washington, D.C., Michael K. Kellogg et al., Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, P.L.L.C., Washington D.C., for Amici Curiae Center for Democracy & Technology et al.

      14

      Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., et al., Jenner & Block LLP, Washington, D.C., Kenneth L. Doroshow & Scott A. Zebrak, Recording Industry Association of America, Washington, D.C., Jacqueline C. Charlesworth, National Music Publishers' Association, Washington, D.C., Victor S. Perlman, American Society of Media Photographers, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa., Allan Robert Adler, Association of American Publishers, Washington, D.C., Linda Steinman, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, New York, N.Y., David Korduner, Directors Guild of America, Inc., Los Angeles, Cal., Frederic Hirsch & Chun T. Wright, Entertainment Software Association, Washington, D.C., Susan Cleary, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Los Angeles, Cal., Gary Gertzog, National Football League, New York, N.Y., Thomas Ostertag, Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, New York, N.Y., Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, Screen Actors Guild, Inc., Los Angeles, Cal., John C. Beiter, Loeb & Loeb, LLP, Nashville, Tenn., Anthony R. Segall, Writers Guild of America, West, Inc., Los Angeles, Cal., for Amici Curiae American Society of Media Photographers, Inc. et al.

      15

      Steven J. Metalitz & J. Matthew Williams, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Americans for Tax Reform.

      16

      Before: WALKER, SACK, and LIVINGSTON, Circuit Judges.

      17

      JOHN M. WALKER, JR., Circuit Judge:

      18

      Defendant-Appellant Cablevision Systems Corporation ("Cablevision") wants to market a new "Remote Storage" Digital Video Recorder system ("RS-DVR"), using a technology akin to both traditional, set-top digital video recorders, like TiVo ("DVRs"), and the video-on-demand ("VOD") services provided by many cable companies. Plaintiffs-Appellees produce copyrighted movies and television programs that they provide to Cablevision pursuant to numerous licensing agreements. They contend that Cablevision, through the operation of its RS-DVR system as proposed, would directly infringe their copyrights both by making unauthorized reproductions, and by engaging in public performances, of their copyrighted works. The material facts are not in dispute. Because we conclude that Cablevision would not directly infringe plaintiffs' rights under the Copyright Act by offering its RS-DVR system to consumers, we reverse the district court's award of summary judgment to plaintiffs, and we vacate its injunction against Cablevision.

      19
      BACKGROUND
      20

      Today's television viewers increasingly use digital video recorders ("DVRs") instead of video cassette recorders ("VCRs") to record television programs and play them back later at their convenience. DVRs generally store recorded programming on an internal hard drive rather than a cassette. But, as this case demonstrates, the generic term "DVR" actually refers to a growing number of different devices and systems. Companies like TiVo sell a stand-alone DVR device that is typically connected to a user's cable box and television much like a VCR. Many cable companies also lease to their subscribers "set-top storage DVRs," which combine many of the functions of a standard cable box and a stand-alone DVR in a single device.

      21

      [124] In March 2006, Cablevision, an operator of cable television systems, announced the advent of its new "Remote Storage DVR System." As designed, the RS-DVR allows Cablevision customers who do not have a stand-alone DVR to record cable programming on central hard drives housed and maintained by Cablevision at a "remote" location. RS-DVR customers may then receive playback of those programs through their home television sets, using only a remote control and a standard cable box equipped with the RS-DVR software. Cablevision notified its content providers, including plaintiffs, of its plans to offer RS-DVR, but it did not seek any license from them to operate or sell the RS-DVR.

      22

      Plaintiffs, which hold the copyrights to numerous movies and television programs, sued Cablevision for declaratory and injunctive relief. They alleged that Cablevision's proposed operation of the RS-DVR would directly infringe their exclusive rights to both reproduce and publicly perform their copyrighted works. Critically for our analysis here, plaintiffs alleged theories only of direct infringement, not contributory infringement, and defendants waived any defense based on fair use.

      23

      Ultimately, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Denny Chin, Judge), awarded summary judgment to the plaintiffs and enjoined Cablevision from operating the RS-DVR system without licenses from its content providers. See Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. Cablevision Sys. Corp. (Cablevision I), 478 F.Supp.2d 607 (S.D.N.Y.2007). At the outset, we think it helpful to an understanding of our decision to describe, in greater detail, both the RS-DVR and the district court's opinion.

      24
      I. Operation of the RS-DVR System
      25

      Cable companies like Cablevision aggregate television programming from a wide variety of "content providers"—the various broadcast and cable channels that produce or provide individual programs—and transmit those programs into the homes of their subscribers via coaxial cable. At the outset of the transmission process, Cablevision gathers the content of the various television channels into a single stream of data. Generally, this stream is processed and transmitted to Cablevision's customers in real time. Thus, if a Cartoon Network program is scheduled to air Monday night at 8pm, Cartoon Network transmits that program's data to Cablevision and other cable companies nationwide at that time, and the cable companies immediately re-transmit the data to customers who subscribe to that channel.

      26

      Under the new RS-DVR, this single stream of data is split into two streams. The first is routed immediately to customers as before. The second stream flows into a device called the Broadband Media Router ("BMR"), id. at 613, which buffers the data stream, reformats it, and sends it to the "Arroyo Server," which consists, in relevant part, of two data buffers and a number of high-capacity hard disks. The entire stream of data moves to the first buffer (the "primary ingest buffer"), at which point the server automatically inquires as to whether any customers want to record any of that programming. If a customer has requested a particular program, the data for that program move from the primary buffer into a secondary buffer, and then onto a portion of one of the hard disks allocated to that customer. As new data flow into the primary buffer, they overwrite a corresponding quantity of data already on the buffer. The primary ingest buffer holds no more than 0.1 seconds of each channel's programming at any moment. Thus, every tenth of a second, the data residing on this buffer are automatically erased and replaced. The [125] data buffer in the BMR holds no more than 1.2 seconds of programming at any time. While buffering occurs at other points in the operation of the RS-DVR, only the BMR buffer and the primary ingest buffer are utilized absent any request from an individual subscriber.

      27

      As the district court observed, "the RS-DVR is not a single piece of equipment," but rather "a complex system requiring numerous computers, processes, networks of cables, and facilities staffed by personnel twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week." Id. at 612. To the customer, however, the processes of recording and playback on the RS-DVR are similar to that of a standard set-top DVR. Using a remote control, the customer can record programming by selecting a program in advance from an on-screen guide, or by pressing the record button while viewing a given program. A customer cannot, however, record the earlier portion of a program once it has begun. To begin playback, the customer selects the show from an on-screen list of previously recorded programs. See id. at 614-16. The principal difference in operation is that, instead of sending signals from the remote to an on-set box, the viewer sends signals from the remote, through the cable, to the Arroyo Server at Cablevision's central facility. See id. In this respect, RS-DVR more closely resembles a VOD service, whereby a cable subscriber uses his remote and cable box to request transmission of content, such as a movie, stored on computers at the cable company's facility. Id. at 612. But unlike a VOD service, RS-DVR users can only play content that they previously requested to be recorded.

      28

      Cablevision has some control over the content available for recording: a customer can only record programs on the channels offered by Cablevision (assuming he subscribes to them). Cablevision can also modify the system to limit the number of channels available and considered doing so during development of the RS-DVR. Id. at 613.

      29
      II. The District Court's Decision
      30

      In the district court, plaintiffs successfully argued that Cablevision's proposed system would directly infringe their copyrights in three ways. First, by briefly storing data in the primary ingest buffer and other data buffers integral to the function of the RS-DVR, Cablevision would make copies of protected works and thereby directly infringe plaintiffs' exclusive right of reproduction under the Copyright Act. Second, by copying programs onto the Arroyo Server hard disks (the "playback copies"), Cablevision would again directly infringe the reproduction right. And third, by transmitting the data from the Arroyo Server hard disks to its RS-DVR customers in response to a "playback" request, Cablevision would directly infringe plaintiffs' exclusive right of public performance. See id. at 617. Agreeing with all three arguments, the district court awarded summary declaratory judgment to plaintiffs and enjoined Cablevision from operating the RS-DVR system without obtaining licenses from the plaintiff copyright holders.

      31

      As to the buffer data, the district court rejected defendants' arguments 1) that the data were not "fixed" and therefore were not "copies" as defined in the Copyright Act, and 2) that any buffer copying was de minimis because the buffers stored only small amounts of data for very short periods of time. In rejecting the latter argument, the district court noted that the "aggregate effect of the buffering" was to reproduce the entirety of Cablevision's programming, and such copying "can hardly be called de minimis." Id. at 621.

      32

      [126] On the issue of whether creation of the playback copies made Cablevision liable for direct infringement, the parties and the district court agreed that the dispositive question was "who makes the copies"? Id. at 617. Emphasizing Cablevision's "unfettered discretion" over the content available for recording, its ownership and maintenance of the RS-DVR components, and its "continuing relationship" with its RS-DVR customers, the district court concluded that "the copying of programming to the RS-DVR's Arroyo servers ... would be done not by the customer but by Cablevision, albeit at the customer's request." Id. at 618, 620, 621.

      33

      Finally, as to the public performance right, Cablevision conceded that, during the playback, "the streaming of recorded programming in response to a customer's request is a performance." Id. at 622. Cablevision contended, however, that the work was performed not by Cablevision, but by the customer, an argument the district court rejected "for the same reasons that [it] reject[ed] the argument that the customer is `doing' the copying involved in the RS-DVR." Id. Cablevision also argued that such a playback transmission was not "to the public," and therefore not a public performance as defined in the Copyright Act, because it "emanates from a distinct copy of a program uniquely associated with one customer's set-top box and intended for that customer's exclusive viewing in his or her home." Id. The district court disagreed, noting that "Cablevision would transmit the same program to members of the public, who may receive the performance at different times, depending on whether they view the program in real time or at a later time as an RS-DVR playback." Id. at 623 (emphasis added). The district court also relied on a case from the Northern District of California, On Command Video Corp. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, 777 F.Supp. 787 (N.D.Cal.1991), which held that when the relationship between the transmitter and the audience of a performance is commercial, the transmission is "to the public," see Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 623 (citing On Command, 777 F.Supp. at 790).

      34

      Finding that the operation of the RS-DVR would infringe plaintiffs' copyrights, the district court awarded summary judgment to plaintiffs and enjoined Cablevision from copying or publicly performing plaintiffs' copyrighted works "in connection with its proposed RS-DVR system," unless it obtained the necessary licenses. Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 624. Cablevision appealed.

      35
      DISCUSSION
      36

      We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 448 F.3d 605, 607 (2d Cir.2006).

      37

      "Section 106 of the Copyright Act grants copyright holders a bundle of exclusive rights...." Id. at 607-08. This case implicates two of those rights: the right "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies," and the right "to perform the copyrighted work publicly." 17 U.S.C. § 106(1), (4). As discussed above, the district court found that Cablevision infringed the first right by 1) buffering the data from its programming stream and 2) copying content onto the Arroyo Server hard disks to enable playback of a program requested by an RS-DVR customer. In addition, the district court found that Cablevision would infringe the public performance right by transmitting a program to an RS-DVR customer in response to that customer's playback request. We address each of these three allegedly infringing acts in turn.

      38
      I. The Buffer Data
      39

      [127] It is undisputed that Cablevision, not any customer or other entity, takes the content from one stream of programming, after the split, and stores it, one small piece at a time, in the BMR buffer and the primary ingest buffer. As a result, the information is buffered before any customer requests a recording, and would be buffered even if no such request were made. The question is whether, by buffering the data that make up a given work, Cablevision "reproduce[s]" that work "in copies," 17 U.S.C. § 106(1), and thereby infringes the copyright holder's reproduction right.

      40

      "Copies," as defined in the Copyright Act, "are material objects ... in which a work is fixed by any method ... and from which the work can be ... reproduced." Id. § 101. The Act also provides that a work is "`fixed' in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment ... is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be ... reproduced ... for a period of more than transitory duration." Id. (emphasis added). We believe that this language plainly imposes two distinct but related requirements: the work must be embodied in a medium, i.e., placed in a medium such that it can be perceived, reproduced, etc., from that medium (the "embodiment requirement"), and it must remain thus embodied "for a period of more than transitory duration" (the "duration requirement"). See 2 Melville B. Nimmer & David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright § 8.02[B][3], at 8-32 (2007). Unless both requirements are met, the work is not "fixed" in the buffer, and, as a result, the buffer data is not a "copy" of the original work whose data is buffered.

      41

      The district court mistakenly limited its analysis primarily to the embodiment requirement. As a result of this error, once it determined that the buffer data was "[c]learly ... capable of being reproduced," i.e., that the work was embodied in the buffer, the district court concluded that the work was therefore "fixed" in the buffer, and that a copy had thus been made. Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 621-22. In doing so, it relied on a line of cases beginning with MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer Inc., 991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir.1993). It also relied on the United States Copyright Office's 2001 report on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which states, in essence, that an embodiment is fixed "[u]nless a reproduction manifests itself so fleetingly that it cannot be copied." U.S. Copyright Office, DMCA Section 104 Report 111 (Aug.2001) ("DMCA Report") (emphasis added), available at http://www.copyright.gov/reports/studies/dmca/sec-104-report-vol-1.pdf.

      42

      The district court's reliance on cases like MAI Systems is misplaced. In general, those cases conclude that an alleged copy is fixed without addressing the duration requirement; it does not follow, however, that those cases assume, much less establish, that such a requirement does not exist. Indeed, the duration requirement, by itself, was not at issue in MAI Systems and its progeny. As a result, they do not speak to the issues squarely before us here: If a work is only "embodied" in a medium for a period of transitory duration, can it be "fixed" in that medium, and thus a copy? And what constitutes a period "of more than transitory duration"?

      43

      In MAI Systems, defendant Peak Computer, Inc., performed maintenance and repairs on computers made and sold by MAI Systems. In order to service a customer's computer, a Peak employee had to operate the computer and run the computer's copyrighted operating system software. See MAI Sys., 991 F.2d at 513. The issue in MAI Systems was whether, [128] by loading the software into the computer's RAM,[1] the repairman created a "copy" as defined in § 101. See id. at 517. The resolution of this issue turned on whether the software's embodiment in the computer's RAM was "fixed," within the meaning of the same section. The Ninth Circuit concluded that

      44

      by showing that Peak loads the software into the RAM and is then able to view the system error log and diagnose the problem with the computer, MAI has adequately shown that the representation created in the RAM is "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration."

      45

      Id. at 518 (quoting 17 U.S.C. § 101).

      46

      The MAI Systems court referenced the "transitory duration" language but did not discuss or analyze it. The opinion notes that the defendants "vigorously" argued that the program's embodiment in the RAM was not a copy, but it does not specify the arguments defendants made. Id. at 517. This omission suggests that the parties did not litigate the significance of the "transitory duration" language, and the court therefore had no occasion to address it. This is unsurprising, because it seems fair to assume that in these cases the program was embodied in the RAM for at least several minutes.

      47

      Accordingly, we construe MAI Systems and its progeny as holding that loading a program into a computer's RAM can result in copying that program. We do not read MAI Systems as holding that, as a matter of law, loading a program into a form of RAM always results in copying. Such a holding would read the "transitory duration" language out of the definition, and we do not believe our sister circuit would dismiss this statutory language without even discussing it. It appears the parties in MAI Systems simply did not dispute that the duration requirement was satisfied; this line of cases simply concludes that when a program is loaded into RAM, the embodiment requirement is satisfied—an important holding in itself, and one we see no reason to quibble with here.[2]

      48

      At least one court, relying on MAI Systems in a highly similar factual setting, has made this point explicitly. In Advanced Computer Services of Michigan, Inc. v. MAI Systems Corp., the district court expressly noted that the unlicensed user in that case ran copyrighted diagnostic software "for minutes or longer," but that the program's embodiment in the computer's RAM might be too ephemeral to be fixed if the computer had been shut down "within [129] seconds or fractions of a second" after loading the copyrighted program. 845 F.Supp. 356, 363 (E.D.Va.1994). We have no quarrel with this reasoning; it merely makes explicit the reasoning that is implicit in the other MAI Systems cases. Accordingly, those cases provide no support for the conclusion that the definition of "fixed" does not include a duration requirement. See Webster v. Fall, 266 U.S. 507, 511, 45 S.Ct. 148, 69 L.Ed. 411 (1924) ("Questions which merely lurk in the record, neither brought to the attention of the court nor ruled upon, are not to be considered as having been so decided as to constitute precedents.").

      49

      Nor does the Copyright Office's 2001 DMCA Report, also relied on by the district court in this case, explicitly suggest that the definition of "fixed" does not contain a duration requirement. However, as noted above, it does suggest that an embodiment is fixed "[u]nless a reproduction manifests itself so fleetingly that it cannot be copied, perceived or communicated." DMCA Report, supra, at 111. As we have stated, to determine whether a work is "fixed" in a given medium, the statutory language directs us to ask not only 1) whether a work is "embodied" in that medium, but also 2) whether it is embodied in the medium "for a period of more than transitory duration." According to the Copyright Office, if the work is capable of being copied from that medium for any amount of time, the answer to both questions is "yes." The problem with this interpretation is that it reads the "transitory duration" language out of the statute.

      50

      We assume, as the parties do, that the Copyright Office's pronouncement deserves only Skidmore deference, deference based on its "power to persuade." Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 140, 65 S.Ct. 161, 89 L.Ed. 124 (1944). And because the Office's interpretation does not explain why Congress would include language in a definition if it intended courts to ignore that language, we are not persuaded.

      51

      In sum, no case law or other authority dissuades us from concluding that the definition of "fixed" imposes both an embodiment requirement and a duration requirement. Accord CoStar Group Inc. v. LoopNet, Inc., 373 F.3d 544, 551 (4th Cir. 2004) (while temporary reproductions "may be made in this transmission process, they would appear not to be `fixed' in the sense that they are `of more than transitory duration'"). We now turn to whether, in this case, those requirements are met by the buffer data.

      52

      Cablevision does not seriously dispute that copyrighted works are "embodied" in the buffer. Data in the BMR buffer can be reformatted and transmitted to the other components of the RS-DVR system. Data in the primary ingest buffer can be copied onto the Arroyo hard disks if a user has requested a recording of that data. Thus, a work's "embodiment" in either buffer "is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced," (as in the case of the ingest buffer) "or otherwise communicated" (as in the BMR buffer). 17 U.S.C. § 101. The result might be different if only a single second of a much longer work was placed in the buffer in isolation. In such a situation, it might be reasonable to conclude that only a minuscule portion of a work, rather than "a work" was embodied in the buffer. Here, however, where every second of an entire work is placed, one second at a time, in the buffer, we conclude that the work is embodied in the buffer.

      53

      Does any such embodiment last "for a period of more than transitory duration"? Id. No bit of data remains in any buffer for more than a fleeting 1.2 seconds. And unlike the data in cases like MAI [130] Systems, which remained embodied in the computer's RAM memory until the user turned the computer off, each bit of data here is rapidly and automatically overwritten as soon as it is processed. While our inquiry is necessarily fact-specific, and other factors not present here may alter the duration analysis significantly, these facts strongly suggest that the works in this case are embodied in the buffer for only a "transitory" period, thus failing the duration requirement.

      54

      Against this evidence, plaintiffs argue only that the duration is not transitory because the data persist "long enough for Cablevision to make reproductions from them." Br. of Pls.-Appellees the Cartoon Network et al. at 51. As we have explained above, however, this reasoning impermissibly reads the duration language out of the statute, and we reject it. Given that the data reside in no buffer for more than 1.2 seconds before being automatically overwritten, and in the absence of compelling arguments to the contrary, we believe that the copyrighted works here are not "embodied" in the buffers for a period of more than transitory duration, and are therefore not "fixed" in the buffers. Accordingly, the acts of buffering in the operation of the RS-DVR do not create copies, as the Copyright Act defines that term. Our resolution of this issue renders it unnecessary for us to determine whether any copies produced by buffering data would be de minimis, and we express no opinion on that question.

      55
      II. Direct Liability for Creating the Playback Copies
      56

      In most copyright disputes, the allegedly infringing act and the identity of the infringer are never in doubt. These cases turn on whether the conduct in question does, in fact, infringe the plaintiff's copyright. In this case, however, the core of the dispute is over the authorship of the infringing conduct. After an RS-DVR subscriber selects a program to record, and that program airs, a copy of the program—a copyrighted work—resides on the hard disks of Cablevision's Arroyo Server, its creation unauthorized by the copyright holder. The question is who made this copy. If it is Cablevision, plaintiffs' theory of direct infringement succeeds; if it is the customer, plaintiffs' theory fails because Cablevision would then face, at most, secondary liability, a theory of liability expressly disavowed by plaintiffs.

      57

      Few cases examine the line between direct and contributory liability. Both parties cite a line of cases beginning with Religious Technology Center v. Netcom On-Line Communication Services, 907 F.Supp. 1361 (N.D.Cal.1995). In Netcom, a third-party customer of the defendant Internet service provider ("ISP") posted a copyrighted work that was automatically reproduced by the defendant's computer. The district court refused to impose direct liability on the ISP, reasoning that "[a]lthough copyright is a strict liability statute, there should still be some element of volition or causation which is lacking where a defendant's system is merely used to create a copy by a third party." Id. at 1370. Recently, the Fourth Circuit endorsed the Netcom decision, noting that

      58

      to establish direct liability under ... the Act, something more must be shown than mere ownership of a machine used by others to make illegal copies. There must be actual infringing conduct with a nexus sufficiently close and causal to the illegal copying that one could conclude that the machine owner himself trespassed on the exclusive domain of the copyright owner."

      59

      CoStar Group, Inc. v. LoopNet, Inc., 373 F.3d 544, 550 (4th Cir.2004).

      60

      [131] Here, the district court pigeon-holed the conclusions reached in Netcom and its progeny as "premised on the unique attributes of the Internet." Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 620. While the Netcom court was plainly concerned with a theory of direct liability that would effectively "hold the entire Internet liable" for the conduct of a single user, 907 F.Supp. at 1372, its reasoning and conclusions, consistent with precedents of this court and the Supreme Court, and with the text of the Copyright Act, transcend the Internet. Like the Fourth Circuit, we reject the contention that "the Netcom decision was driven by expedience and that its holding is inconsistent with the established law of copyright," CoStar, 373 F.3d at 549, and we find it "a particularly rational interpretation of § 106," id. at 551, rather than a special-purpose rule applicable only to ISPs.

      61

      When there is a dispute as to the author of an allegedly infringing instance of reproduction, Netcom and its progeny direct our attention to the volitional conduct that causes the copy to be made. There are only two instances of volitional conduct in this case: Cablevision's conduct in designing, housing, and maintaining a system that exists only to produce a copy, and a customer's conduct in ordering that system to produce a copy of a specific program. In the case of a VCR, it seems clear — and we know of no case holding otherwise — that the operator of the VCR, the person who actually presses the button to make the recording, supplies the necessary element of volition, not the person who manufactures, maintains, or, if distinct from the operator, owns the machine. We do not believe that an RS-DVR customer is sufficiently distinguishable from a VCR user to impose liability as a direct infringer on a different party for copies that are made automatically upon that customer's command.

      62

      The district court emphasized the fact that copying is "instrumental" rather than "incidental" to the function of the RS-DVR system. Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 620. While that may distinguish the RS-DVR from the ISPs in Netcom and CoStar, it does not distinguish the RS-DVR from a VCR, a photocopier, or even a typical copy shop. And the parties do not seem to contest that a company that merely makes photocopiers available to the public on its premises, without more, is not subject to liability for direct infringement for reproductions made by customers using those copiers. They only dispute whether Cablevision is similarly situated to such a proprietor.

      63

      The district court found Cablevision analogous to a copy shop that makes course packs for college professors. In the leading case involving such a shop, for example, "[t]he professor [gave] the copyshop the materials of which the coursepack [was] to be made up, and the copyshop [did] the rest." Princeton Univ. Press v. Mich. Document Servs., 99 F.3d 1381, 1384 (6th Cir.1996) (en banc). There did not appear to be any serious dispute in that case that the shop itself was directly liable for reproducing copyrighted works. The district court here found that Cablevision, like this copy shop, would be "doing" the copying, albeit "at the customer's behest." Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 620.

      64

      But because volitional conduct is an important element of direct liability, the district court's analogy is flawed. In determining who actually "makes" a copy, a significant difference exists between making a request to a human employee, who then volitionally operates the copying system to make the copy, and issuing a command directly to a system, which automatically obeys commands and engages in no volitional conduct. In cases like Princeton [132] University Press, the defendants operated a copying device and sold the product they made using that device. See 99 F.3d at 1383 ("The corporate defendant ... is a commercial copyshop that reproduced substantial segments of copyrighted works of scholarship, bound the copies into `coursepacks,' and sold the coursepacks to students. ..."). Here, by selling access to a system that automatically produces copies on command, Cablevision more closely resembles a store proprietor who charges customers to use a photocopier on his premises, and it seems incorrect to say, without more, that such a proprietor "makes" any copies when his machines are actually operated by his customers. See Netcom, 907 F.Supp. at 1369. Some courts have held to the contrary, but they do not explicitly explain why, and we find them unpersuasive. See, e.g., Elektra Records Co. v. Gem Elec. Distribs., Inc., 360 F.Supp. 821, 823 (E.D.N.Y.1973) (concluding that, "regardless" of whether customers or defendants' employees operated the tape-copying machines at defendants' stores, defendant had actively infringed copyrights).

      65

      The district court also emphasized Cablevision's "unfettered discretion in selecting the programming that it would make available for recording." Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 620. This conduct is indeed more proximate to the creation of illegal copying than, say, operating an ISP or opening a copy shop, where all copied content was supplied by the customers themselves or other third parties. Nonetheless, we do not think it sufficiently proximate to the copying to displace the customer as the person who "makes" the copies when determining liability under the Copyright Act. Cablevision, we note, also has subscribers who use home VCRs or DVRs (like TiVo), and has significant control over the content recorded by these customers. But this control is limited to the channels of programming available to a customer and not to the programs themselves. Cablevision has no control over what programs are made available on individual channels or when those programs will air, if at all. In this respect, Cablevision possesses far less control over recordable content than it does in the VOD context, where it actively selects and makes available beforehand the individual programs available for viewing. For these reasons, we are not inclined to say that Cablevision, rather than the user, "does" the copying produced by the RS-DVR system. As a result, we find that the district court erred in concluding that Cablevision, rather than its RS-DVR customers, makes the copies carried out by the RS-DVR system.

      66

      Our refusal to find Cablevision directly liable on these facts is buttressed by the existence and contours of the Supreme Court's doctrine of contributory liability in the copyright context. After all, the purpose of any causation-based liability doctrine is to identify the actor (or actors) whose "conduct has been so significant and important a cause that [he or she] should be legally responsible." W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on Torts § 42, at 273 (5th ed.1984). But here, to the extent that we may construe the boundaries of direct liability more narrowly, the doctrine of contributory liability stands ready to provide adequate protection to copyrighted works.

      67

      Most of the facts found dispositive by the district court—e.g., Cablevision's "continuing relationship" with its RS-DVR customers, its control over recordable content, and the "instrumental[ity]" of copying to the RS-DVR system, Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 618-20—seem to us more relevant to the question of contributory liability. In Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., the lack of an [133] "ongoing relationship" between Sony and its VCR customers supported the Court's conclusion that it should not impose contributory liability on Sony for any infringing copying done by Sony VCR owners. 464 U.S. 417, 437-38, 104 S.Ct. 774, 78 L.Ed.2d 574 (1984). The Sony Court did deem it "just" to impose liability on a party in a "position to control" the infringing uses of another, but as a contributory, not direct, infringer. Id. at 437, 104 S.Ct. 774. And asking whether copying copyrighted material is only "incidental" to a given technology is akin to asking whether that technology has "commercially significant noninfringing uses," another inquiry the Sony Court found relevant to whether imposing contributory liability was just. Id. at 442, 104 S.Ct. 774.

      68

      The Supreme Court's desire to maintain a meaningful distinction between direct and contributory copyright infringement is consistent with congressional intent. The Patent Act, unlike the Copyright Act, expressly provides that someone who "actively induces infringement of a patent" is "liable as an infringer," 35 U.S.C. § 271(b), just like someone who commits the underlying infringing act by "us[ing]" a patented invention without authorization, id. § 271(a). In contrast, someone who merely "sells ... a material or apparatus for use in practicing a patented process" faces only liability as a "contributory infringer." Id. § 271(c). If Congress had meant to assign direct liability to both the person who actually commits a copyright-infringing act and any person who actively induces that infringement, the Patent Act tells us that it knew how to draft a statute that would have this effect. Because Congress did not do so, the Sony Court concluded that "[t]he Copyright Act does not expressly render anyone liable for infringement committed by another." 464 U.S. at 434, 104 S.Ct. 774. Furthermore, in cases like Sony, the Supreme Court has strongly signaled its intent to use the doctrine of contributory infringement, not direct infringement, to "identify[] the circumstances in which it is just to hold one individual accountable for the actions of another." Id. at 435, 104 S.Ct. 774. Thus, although Sony warns us that "the lines between direct infringement, contributory infringement, and vicarious liability are not clearly drawn," id. at 435 n. 17, 104 S.Ct. 774 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), that decision does not absolve us of our duty to discern where that line falls in cases, like this one, that require us to decide the question.

      69

      The district court apparently concluded that Cablevision's operation of the RS-DVR system would contribute in such a major way to the copying done by another that it made sense to say that Cablevision was a direct infringer, and thus, in effect, was "doing" the relevant copying. There are certainly other cases, not binding on us, that follow this approach. See, e.g., Playboy Enters. v. Russ Hardenburgh, Inc., 982 F.Supp. 503, 513 (N.D.Ohio 1997) (noting that defendant ISP's encouragement of its users to copy protected files was "crucial" to finding that it was a direct infringer). We need not decide today whether one's contribution to the creation of an infringing copy may be so great that it warrants holding that party directly liable for the infringement, even though another party has actually made the copy. We conclude only that on the facts of this case, copies produced by the RS-DVR system are "made" by the RS-DVR customer, and Cablevision's contribution to this reproduction by providing the system does not warrant the imposition of direct liability. Therefore, Cablevision is entitled to summary judgment on this point, and the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to plaintiffs.

      70
      III. Transmission of RS-DVR Playback
      71

      [134] Plaintiffs' final theory is that Cablevision will violate the Copyright Act by engaging in unauthorized public performances of their works through the playback of the RS-DVR copies. The Act grants a copyright owner the exclusive right, "in the case of ... motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly." 17 U.S.C. § 106(4). Section 101, the definitional section of the Act, explains that

      72

      [t]o perform or display a work "publicly" means (1) to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or (2) to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.

      73

      Id. § 101.

      74

      The parties agree that this case does not implicate clause (1). Accordingly, we ask whether these facts satisfy the second, "transmit clause" of the public performance definition: Does Cablevision "transmit ... a performance ... of the work ... to the public"? Id. No one disputes that the RS-DVR playback results in the transmission of a performance of a work—the transmission from the Arroyo Server to the customer's television set. Cablevision contends that (1) the RS-DVR customer, rather than Cablevision, does the transmitting and thus the performing and (2) the transmission is not "to the public" under the transmit clause.

      75

      As to Cablevision's first argument, we note that our conclusion in Part II that the customer, not Cablevision, "does" the copying does not dictate a parallel conclusion that the customer, and not Cablevision, "performs" the copyrighted work. The definitions that delineate the contours of the reproduction and public performance rights vary in significant ways. For example, the statute defines the verb "perform" and the noun "copies," but not the verbs "reproduce" or "copy." Id. We need not address Cablevision's first argument further because, even if we assume that Cablevision makes the transmission when an RS-DVR playback occurs, we find that the RS-DVR playback, as described here, does not involve the transmission of a performance "to the public."

      76

      The statute itself does not expressly define the term "performance" or the phrase "to the public." It does explain that a transmission may be "to the public ... whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance ... receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times." Id. This plain language instructs us that, in determining whether a transmission is "to the public," it is of no moment that the potential recipients of the transmission are in different places, or that they may receive the transmission at different times. The implication from this same language, however, is that it is relevant, in determining whether a transmission is made to the public, to discern who is "capable of receiving" the performance being transmitted. The fact that the statute says "capable of receiving the performance," instead of "capable of receiving the transmission," underscores the fact that a transmission of a performance is itself a performance. Cf. Buck v. Jewell-La Salle Realty Co., 283 U.S. 191, 197-98, 51 S.Ct. 410, 75 L.Ed. 971 (1931). [135] The legislative history of the transmit clause supports this interpretation. The House Report on the 1976 Copyright Act states that

      77

      [u]nder the bill, as under the present law, a performance made available by transmission to the public at large is "public" even though the recipients are not gathered in a single place, and even if there is no proof that any of the potential recipients was operating his receiving apparatus at the time of the transmission. The same principles apply whenever the potential recipients of the transmission represent a limited segment of the public, such as the occupants of hotel rooms or the subscribers of a cable television service.

      78

      H.R.Rep. No. 94-1476, at 64-65 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5678 (emphases added).

      79

      Plaintiffs also reference a 1967 House Report, issued nearly a decade before the Act we are interpreting, stating that the same principles apply where the transmission is "capable of reaching different recipients at different times, as in the case of sounds or images stored in an information system and capable of being performed or displayed at the initiative of individual members of the public." H.R.Rep. No. 90-83, at 29 (1967) (emphases added). We question how much deference this report deserves. But we need not belabor the point here, as the 1967 report is consistent with both legislative history contemporaneous with the Act's passage and our own interpretation of the statute's plain meaning.

      80

      From the foregoing, it is evident that the transmit clause directs us to examine who precisely is "capable of receiving" a particular transmission of a performance. Cablevision argues that, because each RS-DVR transmission is made using a single unique copy of a work, made by an individual subscriber, one that can be decoded exclusively by that subscriber's cable box, only one subscriber is capable of receiving any given RS-DVR transmission. This argument accords with the language of the transmit clause, which, as described above, directs us to consider the potential audience of a given transmission. We are unpersuaded by the district court's reasoning and the plaintiffs' arguments that we should consider a larger potential audience in determining whether a transmission is "to the public."

      81

      The district court, in deciding whether the RS-DVR playback of a program to a particular customer is "to the public," apparently considered all of Cablevision's customers who subscribe to the channel airing that program and all of Cablevision's RS-DVR subscribers who request a copy of that program. Thus, it concluded that the RS-DVR playbacks constituted public performances because "Cablevision would transmit the same program to members of the public, who may receive the performance at different times, depending on whether they view the program in real time or at a later time as an RS-DVR playback." Cablevision I, 478 F.Supp.2d at 623 (emphasis added). In essence, the district court suggested that, in considering whether a transmission is "to the public," we consider not the potential audience of a particular transmission, but the potential audience of the underlying work (i.e., "the program") whose content is being transmitted.

      82

      We cannot reconcile the district court's approach with the language of the transmit clause. That clause speaks of people capable of receiving a particular "transmission" or "performance," and not of the potential audience of a particular "work." Indeed, such an approach would render the "to the public" language surplusage. Doubtless the potential audience for every [136] copyrighted audiovisual work is the general public. As a result, any transmission of the content of a copyrighted work would constitute a public performance under the district court's interpretation. But the transmit clause obviously contemplates the existence of non-public transmissions; if it did not, Congress would have stopped drafting that clause after "performance."

      83

      On appeal, plaintiffs offer a slight variation of this interpretation. They argue that both in its real-time cablecast and via the RS-DVR playback, Cablevision is in fact transmitting the "same performance" of a given work: the performance of the work that occurs when the programming service supplying Cablevision's content transmits that content to Cablevision and the service's other licensees. See Br. of Pls.-Appellees Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. et al. at 27 ("Fox Br.") ("The critical factor ... is that the same performance is transmitted to different subscribers at different times .... more specifically, the performance of that program by HBO or another programming service." (third emphasis added)).

      84

      Thus, according to plaintiffs, when Congress says that to perform a work publicly means to transmit ... a performance ... to the public, they really meant "transmit ... the `original performance' ... to the public." The implication of this theory is that to determine whether a given transmission of a performance is "to the public," we would consider not only the potential audience of that transmission, but also the potential audience of any transmission of the same underlying "original" performance.

      85

      Like the district court's interpretation, this view obviates any possibility of a purely private transmission. Furthermore, it makes Cablevision's liability depend, in part, on the actions of legal strangers. Assume that HBO transmits a copyrighted work to both Cablevision and Comcast. Cablevision merely retransmits the work from one Cablevision facility to another, while Comcast retransmits the program to its subscribers. Under plaintiffs' interpretation, Cablevision would still be transmitting the performance to the public, solely because Comcast has transmitted the same underlying performance to the public. Similarly, a hapless customer who records a program in his den and later transmits the recording to a television in his bedroom would be liable for publicly performing the work simply because some other party had once transmitted the same underlying performance to the public.

      86

      We do not believe Congress intended such odd results. Although the transmit clause is not a model of clarity, we believe that when Congress speaks of transmitting a performance to the public, it refers to the performance created by the act of transmission. Thus, HBO transmits its own performance of a work when it transmits to Cablevision, and Cablevision transmits its own performance of the same work when it retransmits the feed from HBO.

      87

      Furthermore, we believe it would be inconsistent with our own transmit clause jurisprudence to consider the potential audience of an upstream transmission by a third party when determining whether a defendant's own subsequent transmission of a performance is "to the public." In National Football League v. PrimeTime 24 Joint Venture (NFL), 211 F.3d 10 (2000), we examined the transmit clause in the context of satellite television provider PrimeTime, which captured protected content in the United States from the NFL, transmitted it from the United States to a satellite ("the uplink"), and then transmitted it from the satellite to subscribers in both the United States and Canada ("the downlink"). PrimeTime had a license to [137] transmit to its U.S. customers, but not its Canadian customers. It argued that although the downlink transmission to its Canadian subscribers was a public performance, it could not be held liable for that act because it occurred entirely outside of the United States and therefore was not subject to the strictures of the Copyright Act. It also argued that the uplink transmission was not a public performance because it was a transmission to a single satellite. See id. at 12.

      88

      The NFL court did not question the first assumption, but it flatly rejected the second on a specific and germane ground:

      89

      We believe the most logical interpretation of the Copyright Act is to hold that a public performance or display includes each step in the process by which a protected work wends its way to its audience. Under that analysis, it is clear that PrimeTime's uplink transmission of signals captured in the United States is a step in the process by which NFL's protected work wends its way to a public audience.

      90

      Id. at 13 (emphasis added) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Thus, while the uplink transmission that took place in the United States was not, in itself, "to the public," the NFL court deemed it so because it ultimately resulted in an undisputed public performance. Notably, the NFL court did not base its decision on the fact that an upstream transmission by another party (the NFL) might have been to the public. Nor did the court base its decision on the fact that Primetime simultaneously transmitted a performance of the work to the public in the United States. Because NFL directs us to look downstream, rather than upstream or laterally, to determine whether any link in a chain of transmissions made by a party constitutes a public performance, we reject plaintiffs' contention that we examine the potential recipients of the content provider's initial transmission to determine who is capable of receiving the RS-DVR playback transmission.

      91

      Plaintiffs also rely on NFL for the proposition that Cablevision publicly performs a work when it splits its programming stream and transmits the second stream to the RS-DVR system. Because NFL only supports that conclusion if we determine that the final transmission in the chain (i.e., the RS-DVR playback transmission) is "to the public," plaintiffs' reliance on NFL is misplaced. NFL dealt with a chain of transmissions whose final link was undisputedly a public performance. It therefore does not guide our current inquiry.

      92

      In sum, none of the arguments advanced by plaintiffs or the district court alters our conclusion that, under the transmit clause, we must examine the potential audience of a given transmission by an alleged infringer to determine whether that transmission is "to the public." And because the RS-DVR system, as designed, only makes transmissions to one subscriber using a copy made by that subscriber, we believe that the universe of people capable of receiving an RS-DVR transmission is the single subscriber whose self-made copy is used to create that transmission.

      93

      Plaintiffs contend that it is "wholly irrelevant, in determining the existence of a public performance, whether `unique' copies of the same work are used to make the transmissions." Fox Br. at 27. But plaintiffs cite no authority for this contention. And our analysis of the transmit clause suggests that, in general, any factor that limits the potential audience of a transmission is relevant.

      94

      Furthermore, no transmission of an audiovisual work can be made, we assume, without using a copy of that work: to transmit a performance of a movie, for [138] example, the transmitter generally must obtain a copy of that movie. As a result, in the context of movies, television programs, and other audiovisual works, the right of reproduction can reinforce and protect the right of public performance. If the owner of a copyright believes he is injured by a particular transmission of a performance of his work, he may be able to seek redress not only for the infringing transmission, but also for the underlying copying that facilitated the transmission. Given this interplay between the various rights in this context, it seems quite consistent with the Act to treat a transmission made using Copy A as distinct from one made using Copy B, just as we would treat a transmission made by Cablevision as distinct from an otherwise identical transmission made by Comcast. Both factors—the identity of the transmitter and the source material of the transmission—limit the potential audience of a transmission in this case and are therefore germane in determining whether that transmission is made "to the public."

      95

      Indeed, we believe that Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. v. Redd Horne, Inc., 749 F.2d 154 (3d Cir.1984), relied on by both plaintiffs and the district court, supports our decision to accord significance to the existence and use of distinct copies in our transmit clause analysis. In that case, defendant operated a video rental store, Maxwell's, which also housed a number of small private booths containing seats and a television. Patrons would select a film, enter the booth, and close the door. An employee would then load a copy of the requested movie into a bank of VCRs at the front of the store and push play, thereby transmitting the content of the tape to the television in the viewing booth. See id. at 156-57.

      96

      The Third Circuit found that defendants' conduct constituted a public performance under both clauses of the statutory definition. In concluding that Maxwell's violated the transmit clause, that court explicitly relied on the fact that defendants showed the same copy of a work seriatim to its clientele, and it quoted a treatise emphasizing the same fact:

      97

      Professor Nimmer's examination of this definition is particularly pertinent: "if the same copy ... of a given work is repeatedly played (i.e., `performed') by different members of the public, albeit at different times, this constitutes a `public' performance." 2 M. Nimmer, § 8.14[C][3], at 8-142 (emphasis in original). ... Although Maxwell's has only one copy of each film, it shows each copy repeatedly to different members of the public. This constitutes a public performance.

      98

      Id. at 159 (first omission in original).

      99

      Unfortunately, neither the Redd Horne court nor Prof. Nimmer explicitly explains why the use of a distinct copy affects the transmit clause inquiry. But our independent analysis confirms the soundness of their intuition: the use of a unique copy may limit the potential audience of a transmission and is therefore relevant to whether that transmission is made "to the public." Plaintiffs' unsupported arguments to the contrary are unavailing.

      100

      Given that each RS-DVR transmission is made to a given subscriber using a copy made by that subscriber, we conclude that such a transmission is not "to the public," without analyzing the contours of that phrase in great detail. No authority cited by the parties or the district court persuades us to the contrary.

      101

      In addition to Redd Horne, the district court also cited and analyzed On Command Video Corp. v. Columbia Pictures Industries, 777 F.Supp. 787 (N.D.Cal. 1991), in its transmit clause analysis. In that case, defendant On Command developed [139] and sold "a system for the electronic delivery of movie video tapes," which it sold to hotels. Id. at 788. The hub of the system was a bank of video cassette players, each containing a copy of a particular movie. From his room, a hotel guest could select a movie via remote control from a list on his television. The corresponding cassette player would start, and its output would be transmitted to that guest's room. During this playback, the movie selected was unavailable to other guests. See id. The court concluded that the transmissions made by this system were made to the public "because the relationship between the transmitter of the performance, On Command, and the audience, hotel guests, is a commercial, `public' one regardless of where the viewing takes place." Id. at 790.

      102

      Thus, according to the On Command court, any commercial transmission is a transmission "to the public." We find this interpretation untenable, as it completely rewrites the language of the statutory definition. If Congress had wished to make all commercial transmissions public performances, the transmit clause would read: "to perform a work publicly means ... to transmit a performance for commercial purposes." In addition, this interpretation overlooks, as Congress did not, the possibility that even non-commercial transmissions to the public may diminish the value of a copyright. Finally, like Redd Horne, On Command is factually distinguishable, as successive transmissions to different viewers in that case could be made using a single copy of a given work. Thus, at the moment of transmission, any of the hotel's guests was capable of receiving a transmission made using a single copy of a given movie. As a result, the district court in this case erred in relying on On Command.

      103

      Plaintiffs also rely on Ford Motor Co. v. Summit Motor Products, Inc., 930 F.2d 277 (3d Cir.1991), in which the Third Circuit interpreted § 106(3) of the Copyright Act, which gives the copyright holder the exclusive right "to distribute copies ... of the copyrighted work to the public," 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) (emphasis added). The court concluded that "even one person can be the public for the purposes of section 106(3)." Ford, 930 F.2d at 299 (emphasis added). Commentators have criticized the Ford court for divesting the phrase "to the public" of "all meaning whatsoever," 2 Nimmer & Nimmer, supra, § 8.11[A], at 8-149, and the decision does appear to have that result. Whether this result was justified in the context of the distribution right is not for us to decide in this case. We merely note that we find no compelling reason, in the context of the transmit clause and the public performance right, to interpret the phrase "to the public" out of existence.

      104

      In sum, we find that the transmit clause directs us to identify the potential audience of a given transmission, i.e., the persons "capable of receiving" it, to determine whether that transmission is made "to the public." Because each RS-DVR playback transmission is made to a single subscriber using a single unique copy produced by that subscriber, we conclude that such transmissions are not performances "to the public," and therefore do not infringe any exclusive right of public performance. We base this decision on the application of undisputed facts; thus, Cablevision is entitled to summary judgment on this point.

      105

      This holding, we must emphasize, does not generally permit content delivery networks to avoid all copyright liability by making copies of each item of content and associating one unique copy with each subscriber to the network, or by giving their subscribers the capacity to make their own individual copies. We do not address whether such a network operator would be [140] able to escape any other form of copyright liability, such as liability for unauthorized reproductions or liability for contributory infringement.

      106

      In sum, because we find, on undisputed facts, that Cablevision's proposed RS-DVR system would not directly infringe plaintiffs' exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly perform their copyrighted works, we grant summary judgment in favor of Cablevision with respect to both rights.

      107
      CONCLUSION
      108

      For the foregoing reasons, the district court's award of summary judgment to the plaintiffs is REVERSED and the district court's injunction against Cablevision is VACATED. The case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

      109

      ---------------

      110

      Notes:

      111

      [1] To run a computer program, the data representing that program must be transferred from a data storage medium (such as a floppy disk or a hard drive) to a form of Random Access Memory ("RAM") where the data can be processed. The data buffers at issue here are also a form of RAM.

      112

      [2] The same reasoning also distinguishes this court's opinion in Matthew Bender & Co. v. West Publishing Co., 158 F.3d 693 (2d Cir. 1998). Language in that opinion, taken out of context, suggests that the definition of "fixed" imposes only an embodiment requirement: "Under § 101's definition of `copies,' a work satisfies the fixation requirement when it is fixed in a material object from which it can be perceived or communicated directly or with the aid of a machine." Id. at 702. Like the MAI Systems cases, Matthew Bender only addresses the embodiment requirement: specifically, whether West's copyrighted arrangement of judicial opinions was "embedded" in a CD-ROM compilation of opinions when the cases were normally arranged differently but could be manipulated by the user to replicate West's copyrighted arrangement. Id. at 703. The opinion merely quotes the duration language without discussing it, see id. at 702; that case therefore does not compel us to conclude that the definition of "fixed" does not impose a duration requirement.

  • 3 Originality

    • 3.1 17 U.S.C 102

      1
      § 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general
      2

      (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accord­ance with this title, in original works of author­ship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise com­municated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

      3

      (1) literary works;

      4

      (2) musical works, including any accompany­ing words;

      5

      (3) dramatic works, including any accom­panying music;

      6

      (4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

      7

      (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

      8

      (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

      9

      (7) sound recordings; and

      10

      (8) architectural works.

      11

      (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, il­lustrated, or embodied in such work.

      12

      (Pub. L. 94–553, title I, § 101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2544; Pub. L. 101–650, title VII, § 703, Dec. 1, 1990, 104 Stat. 5133.)

    • 3.2 Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239 (1903)

      1

      188 U.S. 239
      23 S.Ct. 298
      47 L.Ed. 460

      2
      GEORGE BLEISTEIN, John W. Bridgman, John A. Rudolph, Ansley Wilcox, Gerritt B. Lansing, and Edwin Fleming, Doing Business under the Name of The Courier Company and the Courier Lithographing Company, Plffs. in Err.,
      v.
      DONALDSON LITHOGRAPHING COMPANY.
      3

      No. 117.
      Argued January 13, 14, 1903.
      Decided February 2, 1903.

      4

      Messrs. Ansley Wilcox and Arthur Von Briesen, and Messrs. Wilcox & Miner for plaintiffs in error.

      5

      [Argument of Counsel from pages 239-246 intentionally omitted]

      6

      [246] Messrs. Edmund W. Kittredge and Joseph Wilby for defendant in error.

      7

      [Argument of Counsel from pages 246-248 intentionally omitted]

      8

      [248] Mr. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court:

      9

      This case comes here from the United States circuit court of appeals for the sixth circuit by writ of error. Act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. at L. 828, shap. 517, § 6, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, pp. 549, 550). It is an action brought by the plaintiffs in error to recover the penalties prescribed for infringements of copyrights. Rev. Stat. §§ 4952, 4956, 4965 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, pp. 3406, 3407, 3414), amended by act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. at L. 1109, chap. 565), and act of March 2, 1895 (28 Stat. at L. 965, chap. 194). The alleged infringements consisted in the copying in reduced form of three chromolithographs prepared by employees of the plaintiffs for advertisements of a circus owned by one Wallace. Each of the three contained a portrait of Wallace in the corner, and lettering bearing some slight relation to the scheme of decoration, indicating the subject of the design and the fact that the reality was to be seen at the circus. One of the designs was of an ordinary ballet, one of a number of men and women, described as the Stirk family, performing on bicycles, and one of groups of men and women whitened to represent statues. The circuit court directed a verdict for the defendant on the ground that the chromolithographs were not within the protection of the copyright law, and this ruling was sustained by the circuit court of appeals. Courier Lithographing Co. v. Donaldson Lithographing Co. 44 C. C. A. 296, 104 Fed. 993.

      10

      There was evidence warranting the inference that the designs belonged to the plaintiffs, they having been produced by persons employed and paid by the plaintiffs in their establishment to make those very things. Gill v. United States, 160 U. S. 426, [249] 435, 40 L. ed. 480, 483, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 322; Colliery Engineer Co. v. United Correspondence Schools Co. 94 Fed. 152; Carte v. Evans, 27 Fed. 861. It fairly might be found, also, that the copyrights were taken out in the proper names. One of them was taken out in the name of the Courier Company and the other two in the name of the Courier Lithographing Company. The former was the name of an unincorporated joint-stock association formed under the laws of New York (Laws of 1894, chap. 235), and made up of the plaintiffs, the other a trade variant on that name. Scribner v. Clark, 50 Fed. 473, 474, 475, S. C., sub nom. Belford, C. & Co. v. Scribner 144 U. S. 488, 36 L. ed. 514, 12 Sup. Ct. Rep. 734.

      11

      Finally, there was evidence that the pietures were copyrighted before publication. There may be a question whether the use by the defendant for Wallace was not lawful within the terms of the contract with Wallace, or a more general one as to what rights the plaintiff reserved. But we cannot pass upon these questions as matter of law; they will be for the jury when the case is tried again, and therefore we come at once to the ground of decision in the courts below. That ground was not found in any variance between pleading and proof, such as was put forward in argument, but in the nature and purpose of the designs.

      12

      We shall do no more than mention the suggestion that painting and engraving, unless for a mechanical end, are not among the useful arts, the progress of which Congress is empowered by the Constitution to promote. The Constitution does not limit the useful to that which satisfies immediate bodily needs. Burrow-Giles Lithographing Co. v. Sarony, 111 U. S. 53, 28 L. ed. 349, 4 Sup. Ct. Rep. 279. It is obvious also that the plaintiff's case is not affected by the fact, if it be one, that the pictures represent actual groups,—visible things. They seem from the testimony to have been composed from hints or description, not from sight of a performance. But even if they had been drawn from the life, that fact would not deprive them of protection. The opposite proposition would mean that a portrait by Velasquez or Whistler was common property because others might try their hand on the same face. Others are free to copy the original. They are not free to copy the copy. Blunt v. Patten, 2 Paise, 397, 400, Fed. Cas. No. 1,580. See Kelly v. [250] Morris copy is the personal reaction of an individual upon nature. Personality always contains something unique. It expresses its singularity even in handwriting, and a very modest grade of art has in it something irreducible, which is one man's alone. That something he may copyright unless there is a restriction in the words of the act.

      13

      If there is a restriction it is not to be found in the limited pretensions of these particular works. The least pretentious picture has more originality in it than directories and the like, which may be copyrighted. Drone, Copyright, 153. See Henderson v. Tompkins, 60 Fed. 758, 765. The amount of training required for humbler efforts than those before us is well indicated by Ruskin. 'If any young person, after being taught what is, in polite circles, called 'drawing,' will try to copy the commonest piece of real work,—suppose a lithograph on the title page of a new opera air, or a woodcut in the cheapest illustrated newspaper of the day,—they will find themselves entirely beaten.' Elements of Drawing, first ed. 3. There is no reason to doubt that these prints in their ensemble and in all their details, in their design and particular combinations of figures, lines, and colors, are the original work of the plaintiffs' designer. If it be necessary, there is express testimony to that effect. It would be pressing the defendant's right to the verge, if not beyond, to leave the question of originality to the jury upon the evidence in this case, as was done in Hegeman v. Springer, 49 C. C. A. 86, 110 Fed. 374.

      14

      We assume that the construction of Rev. Stat. § 4952 (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3406), allowing a copyright to the 'author, designer, or proprietor . . . of any engraving, cut, print . . . [or] chromo' is affected by the act of 1874 (18 Stat. at L. 78, 79, chap. 301, § 3, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3412). That section provides that, 'in the construction of this act, the words 'engraving,' 'cut,' and 'print' shall be applied only to pictorial illustrations or works connected with the fine arts.' We see no reason for taking the words 'connected with the fine arts' as qualifying anything except the word 'works,' but it would not change our decision if we should assume further that they also qualified 'pictorial illustrations,' as the defendant contends.

      15

      [251] These chromolithographs are 'pictorial illustrations.' The word 'illustrations' does not mean that they must illustrate the text of a book, and that the etchings of Rembrandt or Muller's engraving of the Madonna di San Sisto could not be protected today if any man were able to produce them. Again, the act, however construed, does not mean that ordinary posters are not good enough to be considered within its scope. The antithesis to 'illustrations or works connected with the fine arts' is not works of little merit or of humble degree, or illustrations addressed to the less educated classes; it is 'prints or labels designed to be used for any other articles of manufacture.' Certainly works are not the less connected with the fine arts because their pictorial quality attracts the crowd, and therefore gives them a real use, if use means to increase trade and to help to make money. A picture is none the less a picture, and none the less a subject of copyright, that it is used for an advertisement. And if pictures may be used to advertise soap, or the theatre, or monthly magazines, as they are, they may be used to advertise a circus. Of course, the ballet is as legitimate a subject for illustration as any other. A rule cannot be laid down that would excommunicate the paintings of Degas.

      16

      Finally, the special adaptation of these pictures to the advertisement of the Wallace shows does not prevent a copyright. That may be a circumstance for the jury to consider in determining the extent of Mr. Wallace's rights, but it is not a bar. Moreover, on the evidence, such prints are used by less pretentious exhibitions when those for whom they were prepared have given them up.

      17

      It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme, some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation. Their very novelty would make them repulsive until the public had learned the new language in which their author spoke. It may be more than doubted, for instance, whether the etchings of Goya or the paintings of Manet would have been sure of protection when seen for the first time. At the other end, copyright would be denied to [252] pictures which appealed to a public less educated than the judge. Yet if they command the interest of any public, they have a commercial value,—it would be bold to say that they have not an aesthetic and educational value,—and the taste of any public is not to be treated with contempt. It is an ultimate fact for the moment, whatever may be our hopes for a change. That these pictures had their worth and their success is sufficiently shown by the desire to reproduce them without regard to the plaintiffs' rights. See Henderson v. Tompkins, 60 Fed. 758, 765. We are of opinion that there was evidence that the plaintiffs have rights entitled to the protection of the law.

      18

      The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed; the judgment of the Circuit Court is also reversed and the cause remanded to that court with directions to set aside the verdict and grant a new trial.

      19

      Mr. Justice Harlan, dissenting:

      20

      Judges Lurton, Day, and Severens, of the circuit court of appeals, concurred in affirming the judgment of the district court. Their views were thus expressed in an opinion delivered by Judge Lurton: 'What we hold is this: That if a chromo, lithograph, or other print, engraving, or picture has no other use than that of a mere advertisement, and no value aside from this function, it would not be promotive of the useful arts, within the meaning of the constitutional provision, to protect the 'author' in the exclusive use thereof, and the copyright statute should not be construed as including such a publication, if any other construction is admissible. If a mere label simply designating or describing an article to which it is attached, and which has no value separated from the article, does not come within the constitutional clause upon the subject of copyright, it must follow that a pictorial illustration designed and useful only as an advertisement, and having no intrinsic value other than its function as an advertisement, must be equally without the obvious meaning of the Constitution. [253] It must have some connection with the fine arts to give it intrinsic value, and that it shall have is the meaning which we attach to the act of June 18, 1874 (18 Stat. at L. 78, chap. 301, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3411), amending the provisions of the copyright law. We are unable to discover anything useful or meritorious in the design copyrighted by the plaintiffs in error other than as an advertisement of acts to be done or exhibited to the public in Wallace's show. No evidence, aside from the deductions which are to be drawn from the prints themselves, was offered to show that these designs had any original artistic qualities. The jury could not reasonably have found merit or value aside from the purely business object of advertising a show, and the instruction to find for the defendant was not error. Many other points have been urged as justifying the result reached in the court below. We find it unnecessary to express any opinion upon them, in view of the conclusion already announced. The judgment must be affirmed.' Courier Lithographing Co. v. Donaldson Lithographing Co. 44 C. C. A. 296, 104 Fed. 993, 996.

      21

      I entirely concur in these views, and therefore dissent from the opinion and judgment of this court. The clause of the Constitution giving Congress power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited terms to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective works and discoveries, does not, as I think, embrace a mere advertisement of a circus.

      22

      Mr. Justice McKenna authorizes me to say that he also dissents.

    • 3.3 Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991)

      1

      499 U.S. 340 (1991)

      2
      Feist Publications, Inc.
      v.
      Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc.
      3

      No. 89-1909

      4

      Supreme Court of the United States

      5

      Argued January 9, 1991

      6

      Decided March 27, 1991

      7

      CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

      8

      Kyler Knobbe argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

      9

      James M. Caplinger, Jr., argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.[1]

      10

      JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.

      11

      This case requires us to clarify the extent of copyright protection available to telephone directory white pages.

      12
      I
      13

      Rural Telephone Service Company, Inc., is a certified public utility that provides telephone service to several communities in northwest Kansas. It is subject to a state regulation that requires all telephone companies operating in Kansas to issue annually an updated telephone directory. Accordingly, as a condition of its monopoly franchise, Rural publishes a typical telephone directory, consisting of white pages and yellow pages. The white pages list in alphabetical order the names of Rural's subscribers, together with their towns and telephone numbers. The yellow pages list Rural's business subscribers alphabetically by category and feature classified advertisements of various sizes. Rural distributes its directory free of charge to its subscribers, but earns revenue by selling yellow pages advertisements.

      14

      Feist Publications, Inc., is a publishing company that specializes in area-wide telephone directories. Unlike a typical directory, which covers only a particular calling area, Feist's area-wide directories cover a much larger geographical range, reducing the need to call directory assistance or consult multiple directories. The Feist directory that is the subject of this litigation covers 11 different telephone service areas in 15 counties and contains 46,878 white pages listings—compared to Rural's approximately 7,700 listings. Like Rural's directory, Feist's is distributed free of charge and includes both white pages and yellow pages. Feist and Rural compete vigorously for yellow pages advertising.

      15

      As the sole provider of telephone service in its service area, Rural obtains subscriber information quite easily. Persons desiring telephone service must apply to Rural and provide their names and addresses; Rural then assigns them a telephone number. Feist is not a telephone company, let alone one with monopoly status, and therefore lacks independent access to any subscriber information. To obtain white pages listings for its area-wide directory, Feist approached each of the 11 telephone companies operating in northwest Kansas and offered to pay for the right to use its white pages listings.

      16

      Of the 11 telephone companies, only Rural refused to license its listings to Feist. Rural's refusal created a problem for Feist, as omitting these listings would have left a gaping hole in its area-wide directory, rendering it less attractive to potential yellow pages advertisers. In a decision subsequent to that which we review here, the District Court determined that this was precisely the reason Rural refused to license its listings. The refusal was motivated by an unlawful purpose "to extend its monopoly in telephone service to a monopoly in yellow pages advertising." Rural Telephone Service Co. v. Feist Publications, Inc., 737 F. Supp. 610, 622 (Kan. 1990).

      17

      Unable to license Rural's white pages listings, Feist used them without Rural's consent. Feist began by removing several thousand listings that fell outside the geographic range of its area-wide directory, then hired personnel to investigate the 4,935 that remained. These employees verified the data reported by Rural and sought to obtain additional information. As a result, a typical Feist listing includes the individual's street address; most of Rural's listings do not. Notwithstanding these additions, however, 1,309 of the 46,878 listings in Feist's 1983 directory were identical to listings in Rural's 1982-1983 white pages. App. 54 (¶ 15-16), 57. Four of these were fictitious listings that Rural had inserted into its directory to detect copying.

      18

      Rural sued for copyright infringement in the District Court for the District of Kansas taking the position that Feist, in compiling its own directory, could not use the information contained in Rural's white pages. Rural asserted that Feist's employees were obliged to travel door-to-door or conduct a telephone survey to discover the same information for themselves. Feist responded that such efforts were economically impractical and, in any event, unnecessary because the information copied was beyond the scope of copyright protection. The District Court granted summary judgment to Rural, explaining that "[c]ourts have consistently held that telephone directories are copyrightable" and citing a string of lower court decisions. 663 F. Supp. 214, 218 (1987). In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed "for substantially the reasons given by the district court." App. to Pet. for Cert. 4a, judgt. order reported at 916 F. 2d 718 (1990). We granted certiorari, 498 U. S. 808 (1990), to determine whether the copyright in Rural's directory protects the names, towns, and telephone numbers copied by Feist.

      19
      II
      20
      A
      21

      This case concerns the interaction of two well-established propositions. The first is that facts are not copyrightable; the other, that compilations of facts generally are. Each of these propositions possesses an impeccable pedigree. That there can be no valid copyright in facts is universally understood. The most fundamental axiom of copyright law is that "[n]o author may copyright his ideas or the facts he narrates." Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U. S. 539, 556 (1985). Rural wisely concedes this point, noting in its brief that "[f]acts and discoveries, of course, are not themselves subject to copyright protection." Brief for Respondent 24. At the same time, however, it is beyond dispute that compilations of facts are within the subject matter of copyright. Compilations were expressly mentioned in the Copyright Act of 1909, and again in the Copyright Act of 1976.

      22

      There is an undeniable tension between these two propositions. Many compilations consist of nothing but raw data— i. e., wholly factual information not accompanied by any original written expression. On what basis may one claim a copyright in such a work? Common sense tells us that 100 uncopyrightable facts do not magically change their status when gathered together in one place. Yet copyright law seems to contemplate that compilations that consist exclusively of facts are potentially within its scope.

      23

      The key to resolving the tension lies in understanding why facts are not copyrightable. The sine qua non of copyright is originality. To qualify for copyright protection, a work must be original to the author. See Harper & Row, supra, at 547-549. Original, as the term is used in copyright, means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. 1 M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Copyright §§ 2.01[A], [B] (1990) (hereinafter Nimmer). To be sure, the requisite level of creativity is extremely low; even a slight amount will suffice. The vast majority of works make the grade quite easily, as they possess some creative spark, "no matter how crude, humble or obvious" it might be. Id., § 1.08[C][1]. Originality does not signify novelty; a work may be original even though it closely resembles other works so long as the similarity is fortuitous, not the result of copying. To illustrate, assume that two poets, each ignorant of the other, compose identical poems. Neither work is novel, yet both are original and, hence, copyrightable. See Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F. 2d 49, 54 (CA2 1936).

      24

      Originality is a constitutional requirement. The source of Congress' power to enact copyright laws is Article I, § 8, cl. 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to "secur[e] for limited Times to Authors . . . the exclusive Right to their respective Writings." In two decisions from the late 19th century—The Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U. S. 82 (1879); and Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U. S. 53 (1884)—this Court defined the crucial terms "authors" and "writings." In so doing, the Court made it unmistakably clear that these terms presuppose a degree of originality.

      25

      In The Trade-Mark Cases, the Court addressed the constitutional scope of "writings." For a particular work to be classified "under the head of writings of authors," the Court determined, "originality is required." 100 U. S., at 94. The Court explained that originality requires independent creation plus a modicum of creativity: "[W]hile the word writings may be liberally construed, as it has been, to include original designs for engraving, prints, &c., it is only such as are original, and are founded in the creative powers of the mind. The writings which are to be protected are the fruits of intellectual labor, embodied in the form of books, prints, engravings, and the like." Ibid. (emphasis in original).

      26

      In Burrow-Giles, the Court distilled the same requirement from the Constitution's use of the word "authors." The Court defined "author," in a constitutional sense, to mean "he to whom anything owes its origin; originator; maker." 111 U. S., at 58 (internal quotation marks omitted). As in The Trade-Mark Cases, the Court emphasized the creative component of originality. It described copyright as being limited to "original intellectual conceptions of the author," 111 U. S., at 58, and stressed the importance of requiring an author who accuses another of infringement to prove "the existence of those facts of originality, of intellectual production, of thought, and conception." Id., at 59-60.

      27

      The originality requirement articulated in The Trade-Mark Cases and Burrow-Giles remains the touchstone of copyright protection today. See Goldstein v. California, 412 U. S. 546, 561-562 (1973). It is the very "premise of copyright law." Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d 1365, 1368 (CA5 1981). Leading scholars agree on this point. As one pair of commentators succinctly puts it: "The originality requirement is constitutionally mandated for all works." Patterson & Joyce, Monopolizing the Law: The Scope of Copyright Protection for Law Reports and Statutory Compilations, 36 UCLA L. Rev. 719, 763, n. 155 (1989) (emphasis in original) (hereinafter Patterson & Joyce). Accord, id., at 759-760, and n. 140; Nimmer § 1.06[A] ("[O]riginality is a statutory as well as a constitutional requirement"); id., § 1.08[C][1] ("[A] modicum of intellectual labor . . . clearly constitutes an essential constitutional element").

      28

      It is this bedrock principle of copyright that mandates the law's seemingly disparate treatment of facts and factual compilations. "No one may claim originality as to facts." Id., § 2.11[A], p. 2-157. This is because facts do not owe their origin to an act of authorship. The distinction is one between creation and discovery: The first person to find and report a particular fact has not created the fact; he or she has merely discovered its existence. To borrow from Burrow-Giles, one who discovers a fact is not its "maker" or "originator." 111 U. S., at 58. "The discoverer merely finds and records." Nimmer § 2.03[E]. Census takers, for example, do not "create" the population figures that emerge from their efforts; in a sense, they copy these figures from the world around them. Denicola, Copyright in Collections of Facts: A Theory for the Protection of Nonfiction Literary Works, 81 Colum. L. Rev. 516, 525 (1981) (hereinafter Denicola). Census data therefore do not trigger copyright because these data are not "original" in the constitutional sense. Nimmer § 2.03[E]. The same is true of all facts—scientific, historical, biographical, and news of the day. "[T]hey may not be copyrighted and are part of the public domain available to every person." Miller, supra, at 1369.

      29

      Factual compilations, on the other hand, may possess the requisite originality. The compilation author typically chooses which facts to include, in what order to place them, and how to arrange the collected data so that they may be used effectively by readers. These choices as to selection and arrangement, so long as they are made independently by the compiler and entail a minimal degree of creativity, are sufficiently original that Congress may protect such compilations through the copyright laws. Nimmer §§ 2.11[D], 3.03; Denicola 523, n. 38. Thus, even a directory that contains absolutely no protectible written expression, only facts, meets the constitutional minimum for copyright protection if it features an original selection or arrangement. See Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 547. Accord, Nimmer § 3.03.

      30

      This protection is subject to an important limitation. The mere fact that a work is copyrighted does not mean that every element of the work may be protected. Originality remains the sine qua non of copyright; accordingly, copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author. Patterson & Joyce 800-802; Ginsburg, Creation and Commercial Value: Copyright Protection of Works of Information, 90 Colum. L. Rev. 1865, 1868, and n. 12 (1990) (hereinafter Ginsburg). Thus, if the compilation author clothes facts with an original collocation of words, he or she may be able to claim a copyright in this written expression. Others may copy the underlying facts from the publication, but not the precise words used to present them. In Harper & Row, for example, we explained that President Ford could not prevent others from copying bare historical facts from his autobiography, see 471 U. S., at 556-557, but that he could prevent others from copying his "subjective descriptions and portraits of public figures." Id., at 563. Where the compilation author adds no written expression but rather lets the facts speak for themselves, the expressive element is more elusive. The only conceivable expression is the manner in which the compiler has selected and arranged the facts. Thus, if the selection and arrangement are original, these elements of the work are eligible for copyright protection. See Patry, Copyright in Compilations of Facts (or Why the "White Pages" Are Not Copyrightable), 12 Com. & Law 37, 64 (Dec. 1990) (hereinafter Patry). No matter how original the format, however, the facts themselves do not become original through association. See Patterson & Joyce 776.

      31

      This inevitably means that the copyright in a factual compilation is thin. Notwithstanding a valid copyright, a subsequent compiler remains free to use the facts contained in another's publication to aid in preparing a competing work, so long as the competing work does not feature the same selection and arrangement. As one commentator explains it: "[N]o matter how much original authorship the work displays, the facts and ideas it exposes are free for the taking . . . . [T]he very same facts and ideas may be divorced from the context imposed by the author, and restated or reshuffled by second comers, even if the author was the first to discover the facts or to propose the ideas." Ginsburg 1868.

      32

      It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not "some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme." Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 589 (dissenting opinion). It is, rather, "the essence of copyright," ibid., and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." Art. I, § 8, cl. 8. Accord, Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken, 422 U. S. 151, 156 (1975). To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. Harper & Row, supra, at 556-557. This principle, known as the idea/expression or fact/expression dichotomy, applies to all works of authorship. As applied to a factual compilation, assuming the absence of original written expression, only the compiler's selection and arrangement may be protected; the raw facts may be copied at will. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate. It is the means by which copyright advances the progress of science and art.

      33

      This Court has long recognized that the fact/expression dichotomy limits severely the scope of protection in fact-based works. More than a century ago, the Court observed: "The very object of publishing a book on science or the useful arts is to communicate to the world the useful knowledge which it contains. But this object would be frustrated if the knowledge could not be used without incurring the guilt of piracy of the book." Baker v. Selden, 101 U. S. 99, 103 (1880). We reiterated this point in Harper & Row:

      34

      "[N]o author may copyright facts or ideas. The copyright is limited to those aspects of the work—termed `expression'—that display the stamp of the author's originality.

      35

      "[C]opyright does not prevent subsequent users from copying from a prior author's work those constituent elements that are not original—for example . . . facts, or materials in the public domain—as long as such use does not unfairly appropriate the author's original contributions." 471 U. S., at 547-548 (citation omitted).

      36

      This, then, resolves the doctrinal tension: Copyright treats facts and factual compilations in a wholly consistent manner. Facts, whether alone or as part of a compilation, are not original and therefore may not be copyrighted. A factual compilation is eligible for copyright if it features an original selection or arrangement of facts, but the copyright is limited to the particular selection or arrangement. In no event may copyright extend to the facts themselves.

      37
      B
      38

      As we have explained, originality is a constitutionally mandated prerequisite for copyright protection. The Court's decisions announcing this rule predate the Copyright Act of 1909, but ambiguous language in the 1909 Act caused some lower courts temporarily to lose sight of this requirement.

      39

      The 1909 Act embodied the originality requirement, but not as clearly as it might have. See Nimmer § 2.01. The subject matter of copyright was set out in §§ 3 and 4 of the Act. Section 4 stated that copyright was available to "all the writings of an author." 35 Stat. 1076. By using the words "writings" and "author"—the same words used in Article I, § 8, of the Constitution and defined by the Court in The Trade-Mark Cases and Burrow-Giles—the statute necessarily incorporated the originality requirement articulated in the Court's decisions. It did so implicitly, however, thereby leaving room for error.

      40

      Section 3 was similarly ambiguous. It stated that the copyright in a work protected only "the copyrightable component parts of the work." It thus stated an important copyright principle, but failed to identify the specific characteristic—originality—that determined which component parts of a work were copyrightable and which were not.

      41

      Most courts construed the 1909 Act correctly, notwithstanding the less-than-perfect statutory language. They understood from this Court's decisions that there could be no copyright without originality. See Patterson & Joyce 760-761. As explained in the Nimmer treatise: "The 1909 Act neither defined originality, nor even expressly required that a work be `original' in order to command protection. However, the courts uniformly inferred the requirement from the fact that copyright protection may only be claimed by `authors'. . . . It was reasoned that since an author is `the . . . creator, originator' it follows that a work is not the product of an author unless the work is original." Nimmer § 2.01 (footnotes omitted) (citing cases).

      42

      But some courts misunderstood the statute. See, e. g., Leon v. Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co., 91 F. 2d 484 (CA9 1937); Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co. v. Keystone Publishing Co., 281 F. 83 (CA2 1922). These courts ignored §§ 3 and 4, focusing their attention instead on § 5 of the Act. Section 5, however, was purely technical in nature: It provided that a person seeking to register a work should indicate on the application the type of work, and it listed 14 categories under which the work might fall. One of these categories was "[b]ooks, including composite and cyclopædic works, directories, gazetteers, and other compilations." § 5(a). Section 5 did not purport to say that all compilations were automatically copyrightable. Indeed, it expressly disclaimed any such function, pointing out that "the subject-matter of copyright [i]s defined in section four." Nevertheless, the fact that factual compilations were mentioned specifically in § 5 led some courts to infer erroneously that directories and the like were copyrightable per se, "without any further or precise showing of original—personal—authorship." Ginsburg 1895.

      43

      Making matters worse, these courts developed a new theory to justify the protection of factual compilations. Known alternatively as "sweat of the brow" or "industrious collection," the underlying notion was that copyright was a reward for the hard work that went into compiling facts. The classic formulation of the doctrine appeared in Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., 281 F., at 88:

      44
      "The right to copyright a book upon which one has expended labor in its preparation does not depend upon whether the materials which he has collected consist or not of matters which are publici juris, or whether such materials show literary skill or originality, either in thought or in language, or anything more than industrious collection. The man who goes through the streets of a town and puts down the names of each of the inhabitants, with their occupations and their street number, acquires material of which he is the author" (emphasis added).
      45

      The "sweat of the brow" doctrine had numerous flaws, the most glaring being that it extended copyright protection in a compilation beyond selection and arrangement—the compiler's original contributions—to the facts themselves. Under the doctrine, the only defense to infringement was independent creation. A subsequent compiler was "not entitled to take one word of information previously published," but rather had to "independently wor[k] out the matter for himself, so as to arrive at the same result from the same common sources of information." Id., at 88-89 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Sweat of the brow" courts thereby eschewed the most fundamental axiom of copyright law—that no one may copyright facts or ideas. See Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d, at 1372 (criticizing "sweat of the brow" courts because "ensur[ing] that later writers obtain the facts independently . . . is precisely the scope of protection given . . . copyrighted matter, and the law is clear that facts are not entitled to such protection").

      46

      Decisions of this Court applying the 1909 Act make clear that the statute did not permit the "sweat of the brow" approach. The best example is International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U. S. 215 (1918). In that decision, the Court stated unambiguously that the 1909 Act conferred copyright protection only on those elements of a work that were original to the author. International News Service had conceded taking news reported by Associated Press and publishing it in its own newspapers. Recognizing that § 5 of the Act specifically mentioned "`periodicals, including newspapers,'" § 5(b), the Court acknowledged that news articles were copyrightable. Id., at 234. It flatly rejected, however, the notion that the copyright in an article extended to the factual information it contained: "[T]he news element— the information respecting current events contained in the literary production—is not the creation of the writer, but is a report of matters that ordinarily are publici juris; it is the history of the day." Ibid.[2]

      47

      Without a doubt, the "sweat of the brow" doctrine flouted basic copyright principles. Throughout history, copyright law has "recognize[d] a greater need to disseminate factual works than works of fiction or fantasy." Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 563. Accord, Gorman, Fact or Fancy: The Implications for Copyright, 29 J. Copyright Soc. 560, 563 (1982). But "sweat of the brow" courts took a contrary view; they handed out proprietary interests in facts and declared that authors are absolutely precluded from saving time and effort by relying upon the facts contained in prior works. In truth, "[i]t is just such wasted effort that the proscription against the copyright of ideas and facts . . . [is] designed to prevent." Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc., 366 F. 2d 303, 310 (CA2 1966), cert. denied, 385 U. S. 1009 (1967). "Protection for the fruits of such research . . . may in certain circumstances be available under a theory of unfair competition. But to accord copyright protection on this basis alone distorts basic copyright principles in that it creates a monopoly in public domain materials without the necessary justification of protecting and encouraging the creation of `writings' by `authors.'" Nimmer § 3.04, p. 3-23 (footnote omitted).

      48
      C
      49

      "Sweat of the brow" decisions did not escape the attention of the Copyright Office. When Congress decided to over-haul the copyright statute and asked the Copyright Office to study existing problems, see Mills Music, Inc. v. Snyder, 469 U. S. 153, 159 (1985), the Copyright Office promptly recommended that Congress clear up the confusion in the lower courts as to the basic standards of copyrightability. The Register of Copyrights explained in his first report to Congress that "originality" was a "basic requisit[e]" of copyright under the 1909 Act, but that "the absence of any reference to [originality] in the statute seems to have led to misconceptions as to what is copyrightable matter." Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U. S. Copyright Law, 87th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 9 (H. Judiciary Comm. Print 1961). The Register suggested making the originality requirement explicit. Ibid.

      50

      Congress took the Register's advice. In enacting the Copyright Act of 1976, Congress dropped the reference to "all the writings of an author" and replaced it with the phrase "original works of authorship." 17 U. S. C. § 102(a). In making explicit the originality requirement, Congress announced that it was merely clarifying existing law: "The two fundamental criteria of copyright protection [are] originality and fixation in tangible form . . . . The phrase `original works of authorship,' which is purposely left undefined, is intended to incorporate without change the standard of originality established by the courts under the present [1909] copyright statute." H. R. Rep. No. 94-1476, p. 51 (1976) (emphasis added) (hereinafter H. R. Rep.); S. Rep. No. 94-473, p. 50 (1975) (emphasis added) (hereinafter S. Rep.). This sentiment was echoed by the Copyright Office: "Our intention here is to maintain the established standards of originality. . . ." Supplementary Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of U. S. Copyright Law, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 6, p. 3 (H. Judiciary Comm. Print 1965) (emphasis added).

      51

      To ensure that the mistakes of the "sweat of the brow" courts would not be repeated, Congress took additional measures. For example, § 3 of the 1909 Act had stated that copyright protected only the "copyrightable component parts" of a work, but had not identified originality as the basis for distinguishing those component parts that were copyrightable from those that were not. The 1976 Act deleted this section and replaced it with § 102(b), which identifies specifically those elements of a work for which copyright is not available: "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." Section 102(b) is universally understood to prohibit any copyright in facts. Harper & Row, supra, at 547, 556. Accord, Nimmer § 2.03[E] (equating facts with "discoveries"). As with § 102(a), Congress emphasized that § 102(b) did not change the law, but merely clarified it: "Section 102(b) in no way enlarges or contracts the scope of copyright protection under the present law. Its purpose is to restate . . . that the basic dichotomy between expression and idea remains unchanged." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 54.

      52

      Congress took another step to minimize confusion by deleting the specific mention of "directories . . . and other compilations" in § 5 of the 1909 Act. As mentioned, this section had led some courts to conclude that directories were copyrightable per se and that every element of a directory was protected. In its place, Congress enacted two new provisions. First, to make clear that compilations were not copyrightable per se, Congress provided a definition of the term "compilation." Second, to make clear that the copyright in a compilation did not extend to the facts themselves, Congress enacted § 103.

      53

      The definition of "compilation" is found in § 101 of the 1976 Act. It defines a "compilation" in the copyright sense as "a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship" (emphasis added).

      54

      The purpose of the statutory definition is to emphasize that collections of facts are not copyrightable per se. It conveys this message through its tripartite structure, as emphasized above by the italics. The statute identifies three distinct elements and requires each to be met for a work to qualify as a copyrightable compilation: (1) the collection and assembly of pre-existing material, facts, or data; (2) the selection, coordination, or arrangement of those materials; and (3) the creation, by virtue of the particular selection, coordination, or arrangement, of an "original" work of authorship. "[T]his tripartite conjunctive structure is self-evident, and should be assumed to `accurately express the legislative purpose.'" Patry 51, quoting.

      55

      At first glance, the first requirement does not seem to tell us much. It merely describes what one normally thinks of as a compilation—a collection of pre-existing material, facts, or data. What makes it significant is that it is not the sole requirement. It is not enough for copyright purposes that an author collects and assembles facts. To satisfy the statutory definition, the work must get over two additional hurdles. In this way, the plain language indicates that not every collection of facts receives copyright protection. Otherwise, there would be a period after "data."

      56

      The third requirement is also illuminating. It emphasizes that a compilation, like any other work, is copyrightable only if it satisfies the originality requirement ("an original work of authorship"). Although § 102 states plainly that the originality requirement applies to all works, the point was emphasized with regard to compilations to ensure that courts would not repeat the mistake of the "sweat of the brow" courts by concluding that fact-based works are treated differently and measured by some other standard. As Congress explained it, the goal was to "make plain that the criteria of copyrightable subject matter stated in section 102 apply with full force to works . . . containing preexisting material." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 55.

      57

      The key to the statutory definition is the second requirement. It instructs courts that, in determining whether a fact-based work is an original work of authorship, they should focus on the manner in which the collected facts have been selected, coordinated, and arranged. This is a straightforward application of the originality requirement. Facts are never original, so the compilation author can claim originality, if at all, only in the way the facts are presented. To that end, the statute dictates that the principal focus should be on whether the selection, coordination, and arrangement are sufficiently original to merit protection.

      58

      Not every selection, coordination, or arrangement will pass muster. This is plain from the statute. It states that, to merit protection, the facts must be selected, coordinated, or arranged "in such a way" as to render the work as a whole original. This implies that some "ways" will trigger copyright, but that others will not. See Patry 57, and n. 76. Otherwise, the phrase "in such a way" is meaningless and Congress should have defined "compilation" simply as "a work formed by the collection and assembly of preexisting materials or data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged." That Congress did not do so is dispositive. In accordance with "the established principle that a court should give effect, if possible, to every clause and word of a statute," Moskal v. United States, 498 U. S. 103, 109-110 (1990) (internal quotation marks omitted), we conclude that the statute envisions that there will be some fact-based works in which the selection, coordination, and arrangement are not sufficiently original to trigger copyright protection.

      59

      As discussed earlier, however, the originality requirement is not particularly stringent. A compiler may settle upon a selection or arrangement that others have used; novelty is not required. Originality requires only that the author make the selection or arrangement independently (i. e., without copying that selection or arrangement from another work), and that it display some minimal level of creativity. Presumably, the vast majority of compilations will pass this test, but not all will. There remains a narrow category of works in which the creative spark is utterly lacking or so trivial as to be virtually nonexistent. See generally Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U. S. 239, 251 (1903) (referring to "the narrowest and most obvious limits"). Such works are incapable of sustaining a valid copyright. Nimmer § 2.01[B].

      60

      Even if a work qualifies as a copyrightable compilation, it receives only limited protection. This is the point of § 103 of the Act. Section 103 explains that "[t]he subject matter of copyright . . . includes compilations," § 103(a), but that copyright protects only the author's original contributions—not the facts or information conveyed:

      61
      "The copyright in a compilation . . . extends only to the material contributed by the author of such work, as distinguished from the preexisting material employed in the work, and does not imply any exclusive right in the preexisting material." § 103(b).
      62

      As § 103 makes clear, copyright is not a tool by which a compilation author may keep others from using the facts or data he or she has collected. "The most important point here is one that is commonly misunderstood today: copyright. . . has no effect one way or the other on the copyright or public domain status of the preexisting material." H. R. Rep., at 57; S. Rep., at 55. The 1909 Act did not require, as "sweat of the brow" courts mistakenly assumed, that each subsequent compiler must start from scratch and is precluded from relying on research undertaken by another. See, e.g., Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., 281 F., at 88-89. Rather, the facts contained in existing works may be freely copied because copyright protects only the elements that owe their origin to the compiler—the selection, coordination, and arrangement of facts.

      63

      In summary, the 1976 revisions to the Copyright Act leave no doubt that originality, not "sweat of the brow," is the touchstone of copyright protection in directories and other fact-based works. Nor is there any doubt that the same was true under the 1909 Act. The 1976 revisions were a direct response to the Copyright Office's concern that many lower courts had misconstrued this basic principle, and Congress emphasized repeatedly that the purpose of the revisions was to clarify, not change, existing law. The revisions explain with painstaking clarity that copyright requires originality, § 102(a); that facts are never original, § 102(b); that the copyright in a compilation does not extend to the facts it contains, § 103(b); and that a compilation is copyrightable only to the extent that it features an original selection, coordination, or arrangement, § 101.

      64

      The 1976 revisions have proven largely successful in steering courts in the right direction. A good example is Miller v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 650 F. 2d, at 1369-1370: "A copyright in a directory . . . is properly viewed as resting on the originality of the selection and arrangement of the factual material, rather than on the industriousness of the efforts to develop the information. Copyright protection does not extend to the facts themselves, and the mere use of information contained in a directory without a substantial copying of the format does not constitute infringement" (citation omitted). Additionally, the Second Circuit, which almost 70 years ago issued the classic formulation of the "sweat of the brow" doctrine in Jeweler's Circular Publishing Co., has now fully repudiated the reasoning of that decision. See, e. g., Financial Information, Inc. v. Moody's Investors Service, Inc., 808 F. 2d 204, 207 (CA2 1986), cert. denied, 484 U. S. 820 (1987); Financial Information, Inc. v. Moody's Investors Service, Inc., 751 F. 2d 501, 510 (CA2 1984) (Newman, J., concurring); Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F. 2d 972, 979 (CA2 1980). Even those scholars who believe that "industrious collection" should be rewarded seem to recognize that this is beyond the scope of existing copyright law. See Denicola 516 ("[T]he very vocabulary of copyright is ill suited to analyzing property rights in works of nonfiction"); id., at 520-521, 525; Ginsburg 1867, 1870.

      65
      III
      66

      There is no doubt that Feist took from the white pages of Rural's directory a substantial amount of factual information. At a minimum, Feist copied the names, towns, and telephone numbers of 1,309 of Rural's subscribers. Not all copying, however, is copyright infringement. To establish infringement, two elements must be proven: (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original. See Harper & Row, 471 U. S., at 548. The first element is not at issue here; Feist appears to concede that Rural's directory, considered as a whole, is subject to a valid copyright because it contains some foreword text, as well as original material in its yellow pages advertisements. See Brief for Petitioner 18; Pet. for Cert. 9.

      67

      The question is whether Rural has proved the second element. In other words, did Feist, by taking 1,309 names, towns, and telephone numbers from Rural's white pages, copy anything that was "original" to Rural? Certainly, the raw data does not satisfy the originality requirement. Rural may have been the first to discover and report the names, towns, and telephone numbers of its subscribers, but this data does not "ow[e] its origin'" to Rural. Burrow-Giles, 111 U. S., at 58. Rather, these bits of information are uncopyrightable facts; they existed before Rural reported them and would have continued to exist if Rural had never published a telephone directory. The originality requirement "rule[s] out protecting . . . names, addresses, and telephone numbers of which the plaintiff by no stretch of the imagination could be called the author." Patterson & Joyce 776.

      68

      Rural essentially concedes the point by referring to the names, towns, and telephone numbers as "preexisting material." Brief for Respondent 17. Section 103(b) states explicitly that the copyright in a compilation does not extend to "the preexisting material employed in the work."

      69

      The question that remains is whether Rural selected, coordinated, or arranged these uncopyrightable facts in an original way. As mentioned, originality is not a stringent standard; it does not require that facts be presented in an innovative or surprising way. It is equally true, however, that the selection and arrangement of facts cannot be so mechanical or routine as to require no creativity whatsoever. The standard of originality is low, but it does exist. See Patterson & Joyce 760, n. 144 ("While this requirement is sometimes characterized as modest, or a low threshold, it is not without effect") (internal quotation marks omitted; citations omitted). As this Court has explained, the Constitution mandates some minimal degree of creativity, see The Trade-Mark Cases, 100 U. S., at 94; and an author who claims infringement must prove "the existence of . . . intellectual production, of thought, and conception." Burrow-Giles, supra, at 59-60.

      70

      The selection, coordination, and arrangement of Rural's white pages do not satisfy the minimum constitutional standards for copyright protection. As mentioned at the outset, Rural's white pages are entirely typical. Persons desiring' telephone service in Rural's service area fill out an application and Rural issues them a telephone number. In preparing its white pages, Rural simply takes the data provided by its subscribers and lists it alphabetically by surname. The end product is a garden-variety white pages directory, devoid of even the slightest trace of creativity.

      71

      Rural's selection of listings could not be more obvious: It publishes the most basic information—name, town, and telephone number—about each person who applies to it for telephone service. This is "selection" of a sort, but it lacks the modicum of creativity necessary to transform mere selection into copyrightable expression. Rural expended sufficient effort to make the white pages directory useful, but insufficient creativity to make it original.

      72

      We note in passing that the selection featured in Rural's white pages may also fail the originality requirement for another reason. Feist points out that Rural did not truly "select" to publish the names and telephone numbers of its subscribers; rather, it was required to do so by the Kansas Corporation Commission as part of its monopoly franchise. See 737 F. Supp., at 612. Accordingly, one could plausibly conclude that this selection was dictated by state law, not by Rural.

      73

      Nor can Rural claim originality in its coordination and arrangement of facts. The white pages do nothing more than list Rural's subscribers in alphabetical order. This arrangement may, technically speaking, owe its origin to Rural; no one disputes that Rural undertook the task of alphabetizing the names itself. But there is nothing remotely creative about arranging names alphabetically in a white pages directory. It is an age-old practice, firmly rooted in tradition and so commonplace that it has come to be expected as a matter of course. See Brief for Information Industry Association et al. as Amici Curiae 10 (alphabetical arrangement "is universally observed in directories published by local exchange telephone companies"). It is not only unoriginal, it is practically inevitable. This time-honored tradition does not possess the minimal creative spark required by the Copyright Act and the Constitution.

      74

      We conclude that the names, towns, and telephone numbers copied by Feist were not original to Rural and therefore were not protected by the copyright in Rural's combined white and yellow pages directory. As a constitutional matter, copyright protects only those constituent elements of a work that possess more than a de minimis quantum of creativity. Rural's white pages, limited to basic subscriber information and arranged alphabetically, fall short of the mark. As a statutory matter, 17 U. S. C. § 101 does not afford protection from copying to a collection of facts that are selected, coordinated, and arranged in a way that utterly lacks originality. Given that some works must fail, we cannot imagine a more likely candidate. Indeed, were we to hold that Rural's white pages pass muster, it is hard to believe that any collection of facts could fail.

      75

      Because Rural's white pages lack the requisite originality, Feist's use of the listings cannot constitute infringement. This decision should not be construed as demeaning Rural's efforts in compiling its directory, but rather as making clear that copyright rewards originality, not effort. As this Court noted more than a century ago, "`great praise may be due to the plaintiffs for their industry and enterprise in publishing this paper, yet the law does not contemplate their being rewarded in this way.'" Baker v. Selden, 101 U. S., at 105.

      76

      The judgment of the Court of Appeals is

      77

      Reversed.

      78

      JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the judgment.

      79

      [1] Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the Association of North American Directory Publishers et al. by Theodore Case Whitehouse; for the International Association of Cross Reference Directory Publishers by Richard D. Grauer and Kathleen McCree Lewis; and for the Third-Class Mail Association by Ian D. Volner.

      80

      Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for Ameritech et al. by Michael K. Kellogg, Charles Rothfeld, Douglas J. Kirk, Thomas P. Hester, and Harlan Sherwat; for the Association of American Publishers, Inc., by Robert G. Sugarman and R. Bruce Rich; for GTE Corp. by Kirk K. Van Tine, Richard M. Cahill, and Edward R. Sublett; for the National Telephone Cooperative Association by L. Marie Guillory and David Cosson; for the United States Telephone Association by Richard J. Rappaport and Keith P. Schoeneberger; and for West Publishing Co. by Vance K. Opperman and James E. Schatz.

      81

      Briefs of amici curiae were filed for Bellsouth Corp. by Anthony B. Askew, Robert E. Richards, Walter H. Alford, and Vincent L. Sgrosso; for the Direct Marketing Association, Inc., by Robert L. Sherman; for Haines and Co., Inc., by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Bernard A. Barken, and Eugene Gressman; and for the Information Industry Association et al. by Steven J. Metalitz and Angela Burnett.

      82

      [2] The Court ultimately rendered judgment for Associated Press on non-copyright grounds that are not relevant here. See 248 U. S., at 235, 241-242.

    • 3.4 Mannion v. Coors Brewing Co., 377 F.Supp. 2d 444 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)

      • 3.4.1 Mannion v. Coors Brewing Co., 377 F.Supp. 2d 444 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)

        1
        377 F.Supp.2d 444
        2
        Jonathan MANNION, Plaintiff,
        v.
        COORS BREWING COMPANY and Carol H. Williams Advertising, Defendants.
        3
        No. 04 Civ. 1187(LAK).
        4
        United States District Court, S.D. New York.
        5
        July 21, 2005.
        6

        [446] Mary D. Dorman, for Plaintiff.

        7

        S. Raye Mitchell, The Mitchell Law Group, PC, for Defendants.

        8
        MEMORANDUM OPINION
        9

        KAPLAN, District Judge.

        10

        The parties dispute whether a photograph used in billboard advertisements for [447] Coors Light beer infringes the plaintiff's copyright in a photograph of a basketball star. The defendants almost certainly imitated the plaintiff's photograph. The major question is whether and to what extent what was copied is protected. The case requires the Court to consider the nature of copyright protection in photographs. The matter is before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment.

        11
        Facts
        12

        Jonathan Mannion is a freelance photographer who specializes in portraits of celebrity athletes and musicians in the rap and rhythm-and-blues worlds.[1] In 1999 he was hired by SLAM, a basketball magazine, to photograph basketball star Kevin Garnett in connection with an article that the magazine planned to publish about him.[2] The article, entitled "Above the Clouds," appeared as the cover story of the December 1999 issue of the magazine.[3] It was accompanied by a number of Mannion's photographs of Garnett, including the one at issue here (the "Garnett Photograph"), which was printed on a two-page spread introducing the article.[4]

        13

        The Garnett Photograph, which is reproduced below,[5] is a three-quarter-length portrait of Garnett against a backdrop of clouds with some blue sky shining through. The view is up and across the right side of Garnett's torso, so that he appears to be towering above earth. He wears a white T-shirt, white athletic pants, a black close-fitting cap, and a large amount of platinum, gold, and diamond jewelry ("bling bling" in the vernacular), including several necklaces, a Rolex watch and bracelet on his left wrist, bracelets on his right wrist, rings on one finger of each hand, and earrings. His head is cocked, his eyes are closed, and his heavily-veined hands, nearly all of which are visible, rest over his lower abdomen, with the thumbs hooked on the waistband of the trousers. The light is from the viewer's left, so that Garnett's right shoulder is the brightest area of the photograph and his hands cast slight shadows on his trousers. As reproduced in the magazine, the photograph cuts off much of Garnett's left arm.[6]

        14

        In early 2001, defendant Carol H. Williams Advertising ("CHWA") began developing ideas for outdoor billboards that would advertise Coors Light beer to young black men in urban areas.[7] One of CHWA's "comp boards" — a "comp board" is an image created by an advertising company to convey a proposed design[8] — used a manipulated version of the Garnett Photograph and superimposed on it the words "Iced Out" ("ice" being slang for diamonds[9]) and a picture of a can of Coors Light beer (the "Iced Out Comp Board").[10] [448] CHWA obtained authorization from Mannion's representative to use the Garnett Photograph for this purpose.[11]

        15

        The Iced Out Comp Board, reproduced below, used a black-and-white, mirror image of the Garnett Photograph, but with the head cropped out on top and part of the fingers cropped out below.[12] CHWA forwarded its comp boards to, and solicited bids for the photograph for the Coors advertising from, various photographers including Mannion, who submitted a bid but did not receive the assignment.[13]

        16

        Coors and CHWA selected for a Coors billboard a photograph (the "Coors Billboard"), reproduced below, that resembles the Iced Out Comp Board.[14] The Coors Billboard depicts, in black-and-white, the torso of a muscular black man, albeit a model other than Garnett,[15] shot against a cloudy backdrop. The pose is similar to that in the Garnett Photograph, and the view also is up and across the left side of the torso. The model in the billboard photograph also wears a white T-shirt and white athletic pants. The model's jewelry is prominently depicted; it includes a necklace of platinum or gold and diamonds, a watch and two bracelets on the right wrist, and more bracelets on the left wrist. The light comes from the viewer's right, so that the left shoulder is the brightest part of the photograph, and the right arm and hand cast slight shadows on the trousers.[16]

        17

        Mannion subsequently noticed the Coors Billboard at two locations in the Los Angeles area.[17] He applied for registration of his copyright of the Garnett Photograph in 2003[18] and brought this action for infringement in February of 2004. The registration was completed in May 2004.[19] The parties each move for summary judgment.

        18
        Discussion
        19
        A. Summary Judgment Standard
        20

        Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.[20] The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact,[21] and the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[22] "Where cross-motions for summary judgment are filed, a court `must evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, taking care in each instance to draw all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration.'"[23]  [449]

        21
        B. The Elements of Copyright Infringement
        22

        "To prove infringement, a plaintiff with a valid copyright must demonstrate that: (1) the defendant has actually copied the plaintiff's work; and (2) the copying is illegal because a substantial similarity exists between the defendant's work and the protectible elements of plaintiff's."[24] "Actual copying" — which is used as a term of art to mean that "the defendant, in creating its work, used the plaintiff's material as a model, template, or even inspiration"[25] — may be shown by direct evidence, which rarely is available, or by proof of access and probative similarities (as distinguished from "substantial similarity") between the two works.[26]

        23

        Mannion concededly owns a valid copyright in the Garnett photograph.[27] Access is undisputed. There is ample evidence from which a trier of fact could find that CHWA actually copied the Garnett Photograph for the Coors Billboard. Thus, the major questions presented by these motions are whether a trier of fact could or must find substantial similarity between protected elements of the Garnett Photograph and the Coors Billboard.[28] If no reasonable trier could find such similarity, [450] the defendants' motion must be granted and the plaintiff's denied. If any reasonable trier would be obliged to find such similarity (along with actual copying), the plaintiff's motion must be granted and the defendants' denied. If a reasonable trier could, but would not be required to, find substantial similarity (and actual copying), both motions must be denied.

        24
        C. Determining the Protectible Elements of the Garnett Photograph
        25

        The first question must be: in what respects is the Garnett Photograph protectible?

        26
        1. Protectible Elements of Photographs
        27

        It is well-established that "[t]he sine qua non of copyright is originality"[29] and, accordingly, that "copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author."[30] "Original" in the copyright context "means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity."[31]

        28

        It sometimes is said that "copyright in the photograph conveys no rights over the subject matter conveyed in the photograph."[32] But this is not always true. It of course is correct that the photographer of a building or tree or other pre-existing object has no right to prevent others from photographing the same thing.[33] That is because originality depends upon independent creation, and the photographer did not create that object. By contrast, if a photographer arranges or otherwise creates the subject that his camera captures, he may have the right to prevent others from producing works that depict that subject.[34]

        29

        Almost any photograph "may claim the necessary originality to support a copyright."[35] Indeed, ever since the Supreme Court considered an 1882 portrait by the celebrity photographer Napoleon Sarony of the 27-year-old Oscar Wilde,[36] courts have articulated lists of potential components of a photograph's originality.[37] [451] These lists, however, are somewhat unsatisfactory.

        30

        First, they do not deal with the issue, alluded to above, that the nature and extent of a photograph's protection differs depending on what makes that photograph original.

        31

        Second, courts have not always distinguished between decisions that a photographer makes in creating a photograph and the originality of the final product. Several cases, for example, have included in lists of the potential components of photographic originality "selection of film and camera,"[38] "lens and filter selection,"[39] and "the kind of camera, the kind of film, [and] the kind of lens."[40] Having considered the matter fully, however, I think this is not sufficiently precise. Decisions about film, camera, and lens, for example, often bear on whether an image is original. But the fact that a photographer made such choices does not alone make the image original. "Sweat of the brow" is not the touchstone of copyright.[41] Protection derives from the features of the work itself, not the effort that goes into it.

        32

        This point is illustrated by Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp.,[42] in which this Court held that there was no copyright in photographic transparencies that sought to reproduce precisely paintings in the public domain. To be sure, a great deal of effort and expertise may have been poured into the production of the plaintiff's images, including decisions about camera, lens, and film. But the works were "slavish copies." They did not exhibit the originality necessary for copyright.[43]

        33

        The Court therefore will examine more closely the nature of originality in a photograph. In so doing, it draws on the helpful discussion in a leading treatise on United Kingdom copyright law,[44] which is [452] similar to our own with respect to the requirement of originality.[45]

        34

        A photograph may be original in three respects.[46] They are not mutually exclusive.

        35
        a. Rendition
        36

        First, "there may be originality which does not depend on creation of the scene or object to be photographed ... and which resides [instead] in such specialties as angle of shot, light and shade, exposure, effects achieved by means of filters, developing techniques etc."[47] I will refer to this type of originality as originality in the rendition because, to the extent a photograph is original in this way, copyright protects not what is depicted, but rather how it is depicted.[48]

        37

        It was originality in the rendition that was at issue in SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc.[49] That case concerned photographs of the defendants' mirrored picture frames that the defendants commissioned from the plaintiff. The photographs were to be used by the defendants' sales force for in-person pitches. When the defendants reproduced the photographs in their catalogues and brochures, the court found infringement: "Plaintiff cannot prevent others from photographing the same frames, or using the same lighting techniques and blue sky reflection in the mirrors. What makes plaintiff's photographs original is the totality of the precise lighting selection, angle of the camera, lens and filter selection."[50] Again, what made the photographs original was not the lens and filter selection themselves. It was the effect produced by the lens and filters selected, among other things. In any case, those effects were the basis of the originality of the works at issue in SHL Imaging.

        38

        By contrast, in Bridgeman Art Library, the goal was to reproduce exactly other works. The photographs were entirely unoriginal in the rendition, an extremely unusual circumstance. Unless a photograph replicates another work with total or near-total fidelity, it will be at least somewhat original in the rendition.

        39
        b. Timing
        40

        A photograph may be original in a second respect. "[A] person may create a worthwhile photograph by being at the right place at the right time."[51] I will [453] refer to this type of originality as originality in timing.

        41

        One case that concerned originality in timing, among other things, was Pagano v. Chas. Beseler Co.,[52] which addressed the copyrightability of a photograph of a scene in front of the New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street:

        42

        The question is not, as defendant suggests, whether the photograph of a public building may properly be copyrighted. Any one may take a photograph of a public building and of the surrounding scene. It undoubtedly requires originality to determine just when to take the photograph, so as to bring out the proper setting for both animate and inanimate objects.... The photographer caught the men and women in not merely lifelike, but artistic, positions, and this is especially true of the traffic policeman.... There are other features, which need not be discussed in detail, such as the motor cars waiting for the signal to proceed.[53]

        43

        A modern work strikingly original in timing might be Catch of the Day, by noted wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen, which depicts a salmon that appears to be jumping into the gaping mouth of a brown bear at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska.[54] An older example is Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph of a sailor kissing a young woman on VJ Day in Times Square,[55] the memorability of which is attributable in significant part to the timing of its creation.

        44

        Copyright based on originality in timing is limited by the principle that copyright in a photograph ordinarily confers no rights over the subject matter. Thus, the copyright in Catch of the Day does not protect against subsequent photographs of bears feasting on salmon in the same location. Furthermore, if another photographer were sufficiently skilled and fortunate to capture a salmon at the precise moment that it appeared to enter a hungry bear's mouth — and others have tried, with varying degrees of success[56] — that photographer, even if inspired by Mangelsen, would not necessarily have infringed his work because Mangelsen's copyright does not extend to the natural world he captured.

        45

        In practice, originality in timing gives rise to the same type of protection as originality in the rendition. In each case, the image that exhibits the originality, but not the underlying subject, qualifies for copyright protection.

        46
        c. Creation of the Subject
        47

        The principle that copyright confers no right over the subject matter has an important limitation. A photograph may be original to the extent that the photographer created "the scene or subject to be photographed."[57] This type of originality, which I will refer to as originality in the creation of the subject, played an essential role in Rogers v. Koons[58] and Gross v. Seligman.[59]

        48

        [454] In Rogers, the court held that the copyright in the plaintiff's photograph Puppies, which depicted a contrived scene of the photographer's acquaintance, Jim Scanlon, and his wife on a park bench with eight puppies on their laps, protected against the defendants' attempt to replicate precisely, albeit in a three dimensional sculpture, the content of the photograph.[60] Although the Circuit noted that Puppies was original because the artist "made creative judgments concerning technical matters with his camera and the use of natural light"[61] — in other words, because it was original in the rendition — its originality in the creation of the subject was more salient.[62] The same is true of the works at issue in Gross v. Seligman, in which the Circuit held that the copyright in a photograph named Grace of Youth was infringed when the same artist created a photograph named Cherry Ripe[63] using "the same model in the identical pose, with the single exception that the young woman now wears a smile and holds a cherry stem between her teeth."[64]

        49

        * * * * * *

        50

        To conclude, the nature and extent of protection conferred by the copyright in a photograph will vary depending on the nature of its originality. Insofar as a photograph is original in the rendition or timing, copyright protects the image but does not prevent others from photographing the same object or scene. Thus, the copyright at issue in SHL Imaging does not protect against subsequent photographs of the picture frames because the originality of the plaintiffs' photographs was almost purely in the rendition of those frames, not in their creation or the timing of the scene captured. In Pagano, the timing of the capture of the scene in front of the New York Public Library and its rendition were original, but the copyright in the Pagano photograph does not protect against future attempts to capture a scene in front of the same building, just as a copyright in Catch of the Day would not protect against other photographers capturing images of salmon-eating bears.

        51

        By contrast, to the extent that a photograph is original in the creation of the subject, copyright extends also to that subject. Thus, an artist who arranges and then photographs a scene often will have the right to prevent others from duplicating that scene in a photograph or other medium.[65]

        52
        2. Originality of the Garnett Photograph
        53

        There can be no serious dispute that the Garnett Photograph is an original [455] work. The photograph does not result from slavishly copying another work and therefore is original in the rendition. Mannion's relatively unusual angle and distinctive lighting strengthen that aspect of the photograph's originality. His composition — posing man against sky — evidences originality in the creation of the subject. Furthermore, Mannion instructed Garnett to wear simple and plain clothing and as much jewelry as possible, and "to look 'chilled out.'"[66] His orchestration of the scene contributes additional originality in the creation of the subject.

        54

        Of course, there are limits to the photograph's originality and therefore to the protection conferred by the copyright in the Garnett Photograph. For example, Kevin Garnett's face, torso, and hands are not original with Mannion, and Mannion therefore may not prevent others from creating photographic portraits of Garnett. Equally obviously, the existence of a cloudy sky is not original, and Mannion therefore may not prevent others from using a cloudy sky as a backdrop.

        55

        The defendants, however, take this line of reasoning too far. They argue that it was Garnett, not Mannion, who selected the specific clothing, jewelry, and pose. In consequence, they maintain, the Garnett Photograph is not original to the extent of Garnett's clothing, jewelry, and pose.[67] They appear to be referring to originality in the creation of the subject.

        56

        There are two problems with the defendants' argument. The first is that Mannion indisputably orchestrated the scene, even if he did not plan every detail before he met Garnett, and then made the decision to capture it. The second difficulty is that the originality of the photograph extends beyond the individual clothing, jewelry, and pose viewed in isolation. It is the entire image — depicting man, sky, clothing, and jewelry in a particular arrangement — that is at issue here, not its individual components. The Second Circuit has rejected the proposition that:

        57

        in comparing designs for copyright infringement, we are required to dissect them into their separate components, and compare only those elements which are in themselves copyrightable.... [I]f we took this argument to its logical conclusion, we might have to decide that `there can be no originality in a painting because all colors of paint have been used somewhere in the past.[68]

        58
        3. The Idea / Expression Difficulty
        59

        Notwithstanding the originality of the Garnett Photograph, the defendants argue that the Coors Billboard does not infringe because the two, insofar as they are similar, share only "the generalized idea and concept of a young African American man wearing a white T-shirt and a large amount of jewelry."[69]

        60

        It is true that an axiom of copyright law is that copyright does not protect "ideas," only their expression.[70] Furthermore, when "a given idea is inseparably tied to a particular expression" so that "there is a `merger' of idea and expression," [456] courts may deny protection to the expression in order to avoid conferring a monopoly on the idea to which it inseparably is tied.[71] But the defendants' reliance on these principles is misplaced.

        61

        The "idea" (if one wants to call it that) postulated by the defendants does not even come close to accounting for all the similarities between the two works, which extend at least to angle, pose, background, composition, and lighting. It is possible to imagine any number of depictions of a black man wearing a white T-shirt and "bling bling" that look nothing like either of the photographs at issue here.

        62

        This alone is sufficient to dispose of the defendants' contention that Mannion's claims must be rejected because he seeks to protect an idea rather than its expression. But the argument reveals an analytical difficulty in the case law about which more ought to be said. One of the main cases upon which the defendants rely is Kaplan v. Stock Market Photo Agency, Inc.,[72] in which two remarkably similar photographs of a businessman's shoes and lower legs, taken from the top of a tall building looking down on a street below (the plaintiff's and defendants' photographs are reproduced below), were held to be not substantially similar as a matter of law because all of the similarities flowed only from an unprotected idea rather than from the expression of that idea.

        63

        But what is the "idea" of Kaplan's photograph? Is it (1) a businessman contemplating suicide by jumping from a building, (2) a businessman contemplating suicide by jumping from a building, seen from the vantage point of the businessman, with his shoes set against the street far below, or perhaps something more general, such as (3) a sense of desperation produced by urban professional life?

        64

        If the "idea" is (1) or, for that matter, (3), then the similarities between the two photographs flow from something much more than that idea, for it have would been possible to convey (1) (and (3)) in any number of ways that bear no obvious similarities to Kaplan's photograph. (Examples are a businessman atop a building seen from below, or the entire figure of the businessman, rather than just his shoes or pants, seen from above.) If, on the other hand, the "idea" is (2), then the two works could be said to owe much of their similarity to a shared idea.[73]

        65

        [457] To be sure, the difficulty of distinguishing between idea and expression long has been recognized. Judge Learned Hand famously observed in 1930:

        66

        Upon any work, and especially upon a play, a great number of patterns of increasing generality will fit equally well, as more and more of the incident is left out. The last may perhaps be no more than the most general statement of what the play is about, and at times might consist only of its title; but there is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the playwright could prevent the use of his `ideas,' to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended. Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary, and nobody ever can.[74]

        67

        Three decades later, Judge Hand's views were essentially the same: "The test for infringement of a copyright is of necessity vague.... Obviously, no principle can be stated as to when an imitator has gone beyond copying the `idea,' and has borrowed its `expression.' Decisions must therefore inevitably be ad hoc."[75] Since then, the Second Circuit and other authorities repeatedly have echoed these sentiments.[76]

        68

        But there is a difference between the sort of difficulty Judge Hand identified in Nichols and Peter Pan Fabrics and the one presented by the Kaplan rationale and the defendants' argument about ideas in this case. The former difficulty is essentially one of line-drawing, and, as Judge Hand taught, is common to most cases in most areas of the law.[77] The latter difficulty, [458] however, is not simply that it is not always clear where to draw the line; it is that the line itself is meaningless because the conceptual categories it purports to delineate are ill-suited to the subject matter.

        69

        The idea/expression distinction arose in the context of literary copyright.[78] For the most part, the Supreme Court has not applied it outside that context.[79] The classic Hand formulations reviewed above also were articulated in the context of literary works. And it makes sense to speak of the idea conveyed by a literary work and to distinguish it from its expression. To take a clear example, two different authors each can describe, with very different words, the theory of special relativity. The words will be protected as expression. The theory is a set of unprotected ideas.

        70

        In the visual arts, the distinction breaks down. For one thing, it is impossible in most cases to speak of the particular "idea" captured, embodied, or conveyed by a work of art because every observer will have a different interpretation.[80] Furthermore, it is not clear that there is any real distinction between the idea in a work of art and its expression. An artist's idea, among other things, is to depict a particular subject in a particular way. As a demonstration, a number of cases from this Circuit have observed that a photographer's "conception" of his subject is copyrightable.[81] By "conception," the courts must mean originality in the rendition, timing, and creation of the subject — for that is what copyright protects in photography. But the word "conception" is a cousin of "concept," and both are akin to "idea." In other words, those elements of a photograph, or indeed, any work of visual art protected by copyright, could just as [459] easily be labeled "idea" as "expression."[82]

        71

        This Court is not the first to question the usefulness of the idea/expression terminology in the context of non-verbal media. Judge Hand pointed out in Peter Pan Fabrics that whereas "[i]n the case of verbal `works', it is well settled that ... there can be no copyright in the `ideas' disclosed but only in their `expression[,]'" "[i]n the case of designs, which are addressed to the aesthetic sensibilities of the observer, the test is, if possible, even more intangible."[83] Moreover, Judge Newman has written:

        72

        I do not deny that all of these subject matters [computer programs, wooden dolls, advertisements in a telephone directory] required courts to determine whether the first work was copyrightable and whether the second infringed protectable elements. What I question is whether courts should be making those determinations with the same modes of analysis and even the same vocabulary that was appropriate for writings.... [I]t is not just a matter of vocabulary. Words convey concepts, and if we use identical phrases from one context to resolve issues in another, we risk failing to notice that the relevant concepts are and ought to be somewhat different.[84]

        73

        He then referred to dicta from his own decision in Warner Bros. v. American Broadcasting Companies,[85] explaining: "I was saying ... [that] one cannot divide a visual work into neat layers of abstraction in precisely the same manner one could with a text."[86] The Third Circuit has made a similar point:

        74

        Troublesome, too, is the fact that the same general principles are applied in claims involving plays, novels, sculpture, maps, directories of information, musical compositions, as well as artistic paintings. Isolating the idea from the expression and determining the extent of copying required for unlawful appropriation necessarily depend to some degree on whether the subject matter is words or symbols written on paper, or paint brushed onto canvas.[87]

        75

        For all of these reasons, I think little is gained by attempting to distinguish an unprotectible "idea" from its protectible "expression" in a photograph or other work of visual art. It remains, then, to consider just what courts have been referring to [460] when they have spoken of the "idea" in a photograph.

        76

        A good example is Rogers v. Koons, in which the court observed that "[i]t is not ... the idea of a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench that is protected, but rather Rogers' expression of this idea — as caught in the placement, in the particular light, and in the expressions of the subjects...."[88] But "a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench" is not necessarily the idea of Puppies, which just as easily could be "people with dogs on their laps," "the bliss of owning puppies," or even a sheepishly ironic thought such as "Ha ha! This might look cute now, but boy are these puppies going to be a lot of work!"

        77

        Rather, "a couple with eight small puppies seated on a bench" is nothing more or less than what "a young African American man wearing a white T-shirt and a large amount of jewelry"[89] is: a description of the subject at a level of generality sufficient to avoid implicating copyright protection for an original photograph. Other copyright cases that have referred to the "idea" of a photograph also used "idea" to mean a general description of the subject or subject matter.[90] The Kaplan decision even used these terms interchangeably: "The subject matter of both photographs is a businessperson contemplating a leap from a tall building onto the city street below. As the photograph's central idea, rather than Kaplan's expression of the idea, this subject matter is unprotectable in and of itself."[91] Thus another photographer [461] may pose a couple with eight puppies on a bench, depict a businessman contemplating a leap from an office building onto a street, or take a picture of a black man in white athletic wear and showy jewelry. In each case, however, there would be infringement (assuming actual copying and ownership of a valid copyright) if the subject and rendition were sufficiently like those in the copyrighted work.

        78

        This discussion of course prompts the question: at what point do the similarities between two photographs become sufficiently general that there will be no infringement even though actual copying has occurred? But this question is precisely the same, although phrased in the opposite way, as one that must be addressed in all infringement cases, namely whether two works are substantially similar with respect to their protected elements. It is nonsensical to speak of one photograph being substantially similar to another in the rendition and creation of the subject but somehow not infringing because of a shared idea. Conversely, if the two photographs are not substantially similar in the rendition and creation of the subject, the distinction between idea and expression will be irrelevant because there can be no infringement. The idea/expression distinction in photography, and probably the other visual arts, thus achieves nothing beyond what other, clearer copyright principles already accomplish.

        79

        I recognize that those principles sometimes may pose a problem like that Judge Hand identified with distinguishing idea from expression in the literary context. As Judge Hand observed, however, such line-drawing difficulties appear in all areas of the law. The important thing is that the categories at issue be useful and relevant, even if their precise boundaries are sometimes difficult to delineate. In the context of photography, the idea/expression distinction is not useful or relevant.

        80
        D. Comparison of the Coors Billboard and the Garnett Photograph
        81

        The next step is to determine whether a trier of fact could or must find the Coors Billboard substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph with respect to their protected elements.

        82

        Substantial similarity ultimately is a question of fact. "The standard test for substantial similarity between two items is whether an `ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard [the] aesthetic appeal as the same.'"[92] The Second Circuit sometimes has applied a "more discerning observer" test when a work contains both protectible and unprotectible elements. The test "requires the court to eliminate the unprotectible elements from its consideration and to ask whether the protectible elements, standing alone, are substantially similar."[93] The Circuit, however, is ambivalent about this test. In several cases dealing with fabric and garment designs, the Circuit has cautioned that:

        83

        [462] a court is not to dissect the works at issue into separate components and compare only the copyrightable elements.... To do so would be to take the `more discerning' test to an extreme, which would result in almost nothing being copyrightable because original works broken down into their composite parts would usually be little more than basic unprotectible elements like letters, colors and symbols.[94]

        84

        Dissecting the works into separate components and comparing only the copyrightable elements, however, appears to be exactly what the "more discerning observer" test calls for.

        85

        The Circuit indirectly spoke to this tension in the recent case of Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc.[95] There the trial court purported to use the more discerning observer test but nonetheless compared the "total-concept-and-feel" of carpet designs.[96] The Circuit observed that the more discerning observer test is "intended to emphasize that substantial similarity must exist between the defendant's allegedly infringing design and the protectible elements in the plaintiff's design."[97] In making its own comparison, the Circuit did not mention the "more discerning observer" test at all, but it did note that:

        86

        "the total-concept-and-feel locution functions as a reminder that, while the infringement analysis must begin by dissecting the copyrighted work into its component parts in order to clarify precisely what is not original, infringement analysis is not simply a matter of ascertaining similarity between components viewed in isolation.... The court, confronted with an allegedly infringing work, must analyze the two works closely to figure out in what respects, if any, they are similar, and then determine whether these similarities are due to protected aesthetic expressions original to the allegedly infringed work, or whether the similarity is to something in the original that is free for the taking."[98]

        87

        In light of these precedents, the Court concludes that it is immaterial whether the ordinary or more discerning observer test is used here because the inquiries would be identical. The cases agree that the relevant comparison is between the protectible elements in the Garnett Photograph and the Coors Billboard, but that those elements are not to be viewed in isolation.

        88

        The Garnett Photograph is protectible to the extent of its originality in the rendition and creation of the subject. Key elements of the Garnett Photograph that are in the public domain — such as Kevin Garnett's likeness — are not replicated in the Coors Billboard. Other elements arguably in the public domain — such as the existence of a cloudy sky, Garnett's pose, his white T-shirt, and his specific jewelry — may not be copyrightable in and of themselves, but their existence and arrangement in this photograph indisputably contribute to its originality. Thus the fact that the Garnett Photograph includes certain elements that would not be copyrightable in isolation does not affect the nature of the comparison. The question is whether the aesthetic appeal of the two images is the same.

        89

        The two photographs share a similar composition and angle. The lighting is similar, and both use a cloudy sky as backdrop. [463] The subjects are wearing similar clothing and similar jewelry arranged in a similar way. The defendants, in other words, appear to have recreated much of the subject that Mannion had created and then, through imitation of angle and lighting, rendered it in a similar way. The similarities here thus relate to the Garnett Photograph's originality in the rendition and the creation of the subject and therefore to its protected elements.

        90

        There of course are differences between the two works. The similarity analysis may take into account some, but not all, of these. It long has been the law that "no plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate."[99] Thus the addition of the words "Iced Out" and a can of Coors Light beer may not enter into the similarity analysis.

        91

        Other differences, however, are in the nature of changes rather than additions. One image is black and white and dark, the other is in color and bright. One is the mirror image of the other. One depicts only an unidentified man's torso, the other the top three-fourths of Kevin Garnett's body. The jewelry is not identical. One T-shirt appears to fit more tightly than the other. These changes may enter the analysis because "[i]f the points of dissimilarity not only exceed the points of similarity, but indicate that the remaining points of similarity are, within the context of plaintiff's work, of minimal importance... then no infringement results."[100]

        92

        The parties have catalogued at length and in depth the similarities and differences between these works. In the last analysis, a reasonable jury could find substantial similarity either present or absent. As in Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc.,[101] which presents facts as close to this case as can be imagined, the images are such that infringement cannot be ruled out — or in — as a matter of law.

        93
        Conclusion
        94

        The defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint (docket item 18) is granted to the extent that the complaint seeks relief for violation of the plaintiff's exclusive right to prepare derivative works and otherwise denied. The plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment is denied.

        95

        SO ORDERED.

        96

        ---------------

        97

        Notes:

        98

        [1] Mannion Decl. ¶ 1.

        99

        [2] Id. ¶ 3.

        100

        [3] See Pl.Ex. A.

        101

        [4] See id.; Def. Ex. A; Am. Cpt. Ex. B.

        102

        [5] Published opinions in copyright cases concerning graphical works do not often include reproductions of those works. Two exceptions are Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1014-17 (2d Cir.1995) and Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 237 F.Supp.2d 376, 390-93 (S.D.N.Y.2002). Such reproductions are helpful in understanding the opinions, even if the images are not ideal because the West reporters print in black and white.

        103

        [6] Def. Ex. A; Pl.Ex. A; Am. Cpt. Ex. B; Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, 7-8.

        104

        [7] Cook Decl. ¶ 2.

        105

        [8] See Mannion Decl. ¶ 12; Cook Decl. ¶ 4; Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 292 (S.D.N.Y.2002).

        106

        [9] See, e.g., AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY 868 (4th ed.2000).

        107

        [10] See Cook Decl. ¶¶ 3, 5; Pl.Ex. B.

        108

        [11] See Cook Decl. ¶ 5; Def. Ex. B.

        109

        The authorization was for "[u]sage in internal corporate merchandising catalog," Def. Ex. B, which Mannion concedes extended to the Iced Out Comp Board. See Pl. Opening Mem. 2; Pl. Reply Mem. 2.

        110

        [12] See Pl.Ex. B.

        111

        [13] Cook Decl. ¶ 6; Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 12, 17-19.

        112

        [14] See Def. Ex. C; Am. Cpt. Ex. C.

        113

        [15] Cook Decl. ¶ 7.

        114

        [16] See Def. Ex. C; Am. Cpt. Ex. C.

        115

        [17] Mannion Decl. ¶ 20.

        116

        [18] Am. Cpt. Ex. A.

        117

        [19] Id.

        118

        [20] FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); White v. ABCO Eng'g Corp., 221 F.3d 293, 300 (2d Cir.2000).

        119

        [21] Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).

        120

        [22] United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962); Hetchkop v. Woodlawn at Grassmere, Inc., 116 F.3d 28, 33 (2d Cir.1997).

        121

        [23] Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union, Local 100 v. City of New York Dep't of Parks & Recreation, 311 F.3d 534, 543 (2d Cir.2002) (quoting Heublein, Inc. v. United States, 996 F.2d 1455, 1461 (2d Cir.1993) (internal quotation marks omitted)); accord Make the Road by Walking, Inc. v. Turner, 378 F.3d 133, 142 (2d Cir.2004).

        122

        [24] Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1002 (2d Cir.1995) (second emphasis added) (quoting Fisher-Price, Inc. v. Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp., 25 F.3d 119, 122-23 (2d Cir.1994)); accord Tufenkian Import/Export Ventures, Inc. v. Einstein Moomjy, Inc., 338 F.3d 127, 131 (2d Cir.2003) (citing Castle Rock Entm't, Inc. v. Carol Publ'g Group, Inc., 150 F.3d 132, 137-38 (2d Cir.1998)); Boisson v. Banian, Ltd., 273 F.3d 262, 267-68 (2d Cir.2001) (citing Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991) and Streetwise Maps, Inc. v. VanDam, Inc., 159 F.3d 739, 747 (2d Cir.1998)); Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 294 (S.D.N.Y.2002).

        123

        [25] 4 NIMMER ON COPYRIGHT § 13.01[B], at 13-8 ("NIMMER").

        124

        [26] E.g., Jorgensen v. Epic/Sony Records, 351 F.3d 46, 51 (2d Cir.2003); Boisson, 273 F.3d at 267-68 (citing Laureyssens v. Idea Group, Inc., 964 F.2d 131, 140 (2d Cir.1992)).

        125

        [27] See Def. Opening Mem. 7; Def. Supp. Mem. 5.

        126

        [28] Contrary to the implication in some of the plaintiff's papers, see Am. Cpt. ¶¶ 27-29; Pl. Opening Mem. 6; Pl. Supp. Mem. 6-10; see also Tr. (1/27/05) 8-11, 14-19, 25, 30-32, 34-36 ("Tr."), this case does not require a determination whether the defendants have violated the plaintiff's exclusive right under 17 U.S.C. § 106(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the Garnett Photograph. The image used on the Iced Out Comp Board may have been a derivative work based upon the Garnett Photograph, see 17 U.S.C. § 101 (2005), but CHWA obtained the right to use the Garnett Photograph in connection with the Iced Out Comp Board.

        127

        The question whether the Coors Billboard is a derivative work based upon the Garnett Photograph is immaterial. "[A] work will be considered a derivative work only if it would be considered an infringing work" absent consent. 1 NIMMER § 3.01, at 3-4. That is, the infringement inquiry logically precedes or at least controls the derivative work inquiry.

        128

        Finally — again contrary to the plaintiff's suggestion, see Pl. Opening Mem. 9; Pl. Reply Mem. 2-4; Tr. 21-24 — also immaterial is the question whether the Coors Billboard may infringe Mannion's copyright if the Coors Billboard is not substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph but is substantially similar to the Garnett Photograph's hypothesized derivative on the Iced Out Comp Board. Mannion has no registered copyright in the image on the Iced Out Comp Board, which precludes a suit for infringement based upon that image. Well-Made Toy Mfg. Corp. v. Goffa Int'l Corp., 354 F.3d 112, 115-117 (2d Cir.2003); 17 U.S.C. § 411(a) (2005).

        129

        The only question in this case is whether the Coors Billboard infringes the copyright in the Garnett Photograph. The only material comparison therefore is between those two images. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed to the extent that it asserts a violation of Mannion's exclusive right to prepare derivative works.

        130

        [29] Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 345, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991).

        131

        [30] Id. at 348, 111 S.Ct. 1282.

        132

        [31] Id. at 345, 111 S.Ct. 1282 (citing 1 NIMMER §§ 2.01[A], [B] (1990)).

        133

        [32] 1 NIMMER § 2.08[E][1], at 2-130.

        134

        [33] E.g., Caratzas v. Time Life, Inc., No. 92 Civ. 6346(PKL), 1992 WL 322033, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.23, 1992) (observing, in the context of photographs of historic sites, that "Justice Holmes made it clear almost ninety years ago that actionable copying does not occur where a photographer takes a picture of the subject matter depicted in a copyrighted photograph, so long as the second photographer does not copy original aspects of the copyrighted work, such as lighting or placement of the subject.").

        135

        [34] See Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir.1992); Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930 (2d Cir.1914).

        136

        [35] 1 NIMMER § 2.08[E][1], at 2-129; see also Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 36 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (S.D.N.Y.1999).

        137

        [36] See Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 4 S.Ct. 279, 28 L.Ed. 349 (1884); SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 307-08 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (recounting the history of Burrow-Giles with reference to THE WAKING DREAM: PHOTOGRAPHY'S FIRST CENTURY 339-40 (Met. Museum of Art 1993)).

        138

        The photograph at issue in Burrow-Giles is reproduced in MELVILLE B. NIMMER ET AL., CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT 11 (6th ed. 2000) ("CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT").

        139

        [37] See Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co., 111 U.S. at 60, 4 S.Ct. 279 (originality of Wilde portrait founded upon overall composition, including pose, clothing, background, light, and shade, "suggesting and evoking the desired expression"); Leibovitz v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 137 F.3d 109, 116 (2d Cir.1998) ("Leibovitz is entitled to protection for such artistic elements as the particular lighting, the resulting skin tone of the subject, and the camera angle that she selected."); Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301, 307 (2d Cir.1992) ("Elements of originality in a photograph may include posing the subjects, lighting, angle, selection of film and camera, evoking the desired expression, and almost any other variant involved."); Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930, 931 (2d Cir.1914) ("exercise of artistic talent" reflected in "pose, light, and shade, etc."); SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 311 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("What makes plaintiff's photographs original is the totality of the precise lighting selection, angle of the camera, lens and filter selection."); E. Am. Trio Prods., Inc. v. Tang Elec. Corp., 97 F.Supp.2d 395, 417 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("The necessary originality for a photograph may be founded upon, among other things, the photographer's choice of subject matter, angle of photograph, lighting, determination of the precise time when the photograph is to be taken, the kind of camera, the kind of film, the kind of lens, and the area in which the pictures are taken."); Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 382 (S.D.N.Y.1987) (copyrightable elements of a photograph "include such features as the photographer's selection of lighting, shading, positioning and timing.").

        140

        Even these lists are not complete. They omit such features as the amount of the image in focus, its graininess, and the level of contrast.

        141

        [38] Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301, 307 (2d Cir.1992).

        142

        [39] SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 311 (S.D.N.Y.2000).

        143

        [40] E. Am. Trio Prods., Inc. v. Tang Elec. Corp., 97 F.Supp.2d 395, 417 (S.D.N.Y.2000) (Kaplan, J.)

        144

        [41] Feist, 499 U.S. at 359-60, 111 S.Ct. 1282.

        145

        [42] 36 F.Supp.2d 191 (S.D.N.Y.1999).

        146

        [43] Id. at 197; Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 25 F.Supp.2d 421, 427 & nn. 41, 47 (S.D.N.Y.1998).

        147

        [44] HON. SIR HUGH LADDIE ET AL., THE MODERN LAW OF COPYRIGHT AND DESIGNS (3d ed. Butterworths 2000) ("LADDIE").

        148

        [45] See Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, c. 48, § 1(1)(a); 1 LADDIE § 1.8.

        149

        [46] See 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.

        150

        [47] Id.

        151

        [48] See Caratzas v. Time Life, Inc., No. 92 Civ. 6346(PKL), 1992 WL 322033, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Oct.23, 1992); Leigh v. Warner Bros., 212 F.3d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.2000); see also Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239, 249, 23 S.Ct. 298, 47 L.Ed. 460 (1903) ("It is obvious also that the plaintiff's case is not affected by the fact, if it be one, that the pictures represent actual groups — visible things. They seem from the testimony to have been composed from hints or description, not from sight.... But even if they had been drawn from the life, that fact would not deprive them of protection. The opposite proposition would mean that a portrait by Velasquez or Whistler was common property because others might try their hand on the same face. Others are free to copy the original. They are not free to copy the copy."); Franklin Mint Corp. v. Nat'l Wildlife Art Exchange, Inc., 575 F.2d 62, 65 (3d Cir.1978) (same); F.W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, 193 F.2d 162, 164 (1st Cir.1951) ("It is the well established rule that a copyright on a work of art does not protect a subject, but only the treatment of a subject."); BENJAMIN KAPLAN, AN UNHURRIED VIEW OF COPYRIGHT 56 (1967) (observing that, with respect to "works of `fine art,'" "the manner of execution is usually of more interest than the subject pictured.").

        152

        [49] 117 F.Supp.2d 301 (S.D.N.Y.2000).

        153

        [50] Id. at 311.

        154

        [51] 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.

        155

        [52] 234 F. 963 (S.D.N.Y.1916).

        156

        [53] Id. at 964.

        157

        [54] A digital image of the photograph may be found at http://www.fulcrumgallery.com/print — 38089.aspx (last visited July 20, 2005).

        158

        [55] A digital image appears at http://www.gallerym.com/work.cfm? ID=69 (last visited July 20, 2005).

        159

        [56] See, e.g., http://www.raydoan.com/6140.asp (last visited July 20, 2005); http://www .shusterimages.net/BearsätBrooksFalls.htm (last visited July 20, 2005).

        160

        [57] 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.

        161

        [58] 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir.1992).

        162

        [59] 212 F. 930 (2d Cir.1914).

        163

        [60] For a reproduction of the works at issue in Rogers v. Koons, see ROBERT C. OSTERBERG & ERIC C. OSTERBERG, SUBSTANTIAL SIMILARITY IN COPYRIGHT LAW A-24, A-25 (Practising Law Institute 2003).

        164

        [61] 960 F.2d at 304.

        165

        [62] See id. ("When Rogers went to [Jim Scanlon's] home... he decided that taking a picture of the puppies alone [as Scanlon originally had requested] would not work successfully, and chose instead to include [the Scanlons] holding them.... [Rogers] selected the light, the location, the bench on which the Scanlons are seated and the arrangement of the small dogs.").

        166

        [63] The two photographs are reproduced in CASES AND MATERIALS ON COPYRIGHT 211.

        167

        [64] 212 F. at 930-31.

        168

        Also part of the court's analysis was the observation that there were "many close identities of ... light[] and shade." Id.

        169

        [65] I recognize that the preceding analysis focuses on a medium — traditional print photography — that is being supplanted in significant degree by digital technology. These advancements may or may not demand a different analytical framework.

        170

        [66] Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 4-7, 9.

        171

        [67] Def. Reply Mem. 10-11.

        172

        The defendants complain as well that Mannion's declaration does not mention, among other things, the type of film, camera, and filters that he used to produce the Garnett Photograph. Id. at 11. These omissions are irrelevant. As discussed above, originality in the rendition is assessed with respect to the work, not the artist's specific decisions in producing it.

        173

        [68] Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1003 (2d Cir.1995) (citation omitted).

        174

        [69] Def. Br. 6.

        175

        [70] See 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][2][a]; 17 U.S.C. § 102(b).

        176

        [71] 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][3].

        177

        [72] 133 F.Supp.2d 317 (S.D.N.Y.2001).

        178

        [73] The Kaplan decision itself characterized the "idea" as "a businessperson contemplating a leap from a tall building onto the city street below," see id. at 323, but this characterization does not fully account for the disposition of the case. The court agreed with the defendants that:

        179

        "in order to most accurately express th[is] idea ..., the photograph must be taken from the `jumper's' own viewpoint, which would (i) naturally include the sheer side of the building and the traffic below, and (ii) logically restrict the visible area of the businessperson's body to his shoes and a certain portion of his pants legs.... Thus, the angle and viewpoint used in both photographs are essential to, commonly associated with, and naturally flow from the photograph's unprotectable subject matter.... [T]he most common, and most effective, viewpoint from which the convey the idea of the `jumper' ... remains that of the `jumper' himself." Id. at 326.

        180

        The Kaplan court's observations about the angle and viewpoint "essential to" and "commonly associated with," that "naturally flow from," "most accurately express," and "most effective[ly]" convey the "idea of a businessperson's contemplation of a leap" are unpersuasive. Thus, the opinion is best read to hold that the "idea" expressed was that of a businessperson contemplating suicide as seen from his own vantage point because only this reading explains the outcome.

        181

        [74] Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir.1930) (citation omitted).

        182

        This passage is often referred to as the abstractions test, but it is no such thing. Judge Newman has lamented this parlance and the underlying difficulty it elides: "Judge Hand manifestly did not think of his observations as the enunciation of anything that might be called a `test.' His disclaimer (for himself and everyone else) of the ability to `fix the boundary' should have been sufficient caution that no `test' capable of yielding a result was intended." Hon. Jon O. Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody: The Idea/Expression Dichotomy in the Computer Age, 17 CARDOZO ARTS & ENT. L.J. 691, 694 (1999).

        183

        [75] Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir.1960).

        184

        [76] See, e.g., Attia v. Soc'y of the N.Y. Hosp., 201 F.3d 50, 54 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics0; Williams v. Crichton, 84 F.3d 581, 587-588 (2d Cir.1996) ("The distinction between an idea and its expression is an elusive one."); Durham Indus., Inc. v. Tomy Corp., 630 F.2d 905, 912 (2d Cir.1980) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics and characterizing "the idea/expression distinction" as "an imprecise tool"); Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 91 (2d Cir.1976) (acknowledging that "the demarcation between idea and expression may not be susceptible to overly helpful generalization"); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir.1971) ("At least in close cases, one may suspect, the classification the court selects may simply state the result reached rather than the reason for it."); Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 295 (S.D.N.Y.2002) ("the distinction between the concept and the expression of a concept is a difficult one"); see also BENJAMIN KAPLAN, AN UNHURRIED VIEW OF COPYRIGHT 48 (1967) ("We are in a viscid quandary once we admit that `expression' can consist of anything not close aboard the particular collocation in its sequential order. The job of comparison is not much eased by speaking of patterns, nor is the task of deciding when the monopoly would be too broad for the public convenience made much neater by speaking of ideas and expression. The polarity proposed by Hand is indeed related geneologically to the ancient opposition of idea to form, but the ancestor is not readily recognized in the ambiguous and elusive descendant.").

        185

        [77] "[W]hile we are as aware as any one that the line, whereever it is drawn, will seem arbitrary, that is no excuse for not drawing it; it is a question such as courts must answer in nearly all cases." Nichols, 45 F.2d at 122.

        186

        [78] There appears to be no Supreme Court case explicitly making the distinction any earlier than Holmes v. Hurst, 174 U.S. 82, 19 S.Ct. 606, 43 L.Ed. 904 (1899), in which the Court observed that the Copyright Act protects "that arrangement of words which the author has selected to express his ideas." Id. at 86, 19 S.Ct. 606.

        187

        [79] One non-literary case in which the Supreme Court referred to the idea/expression distinction was Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217-18, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954), which is described below in footnote 80.

        188

        [80] In cases dealing with toys or products that have both functional and design aspects, courts sometimes use "idea" to refer to a gimmick embodied in the product. See, e.g., Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217-18, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954) (court, after introducing idea/expression dichotomy, stated that plaintiffs, who had copyrights in statuettes of human figures used as table lamps, "may not exclude others from using statuettes of human figures in table lamps; they may only prevent use of copies of their statuettes as such or as incorporated in some other article."); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738, 742 (9th Cir.1971) (bejeweled gold pin in the shape of a bee was an unprotected "idea"); Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Honora Jewelry Co., 509 F.2d 64, 65-66 (2d Cir.1974) (same for turtle pins); Great Importations, Inc. v. Caffco Int'l, Inc., No. 95 Civ. 0514, 1997 WL 414111, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. July 24, 1997) (M.J.) ("To the degree the similarities between the two sculptures herein are simply because they are both three-piece sets of candleholders in the shape of the letters J, O and Y with baby angels and holly, those similarities are non-copyrightable ideas....").

        189

        This case does not concern any kind of gimmick, and the Court ventures no opinion about the applicability of the idea/expression dichotomy to any product that embodies a gimmick, including toys or other objects that combine function and design.

        190

        [81] See Gross v. Seligman, 212 F. 930, 931 (2d Cir.1914); Kaplan v. Stock Market Photo Agency, Inc., 133 F.Supp.2d 317, 323 (S.D.N.Y.2001); Andersson v. Sony Corp. of Am., No. 96 Civ. 7975(RO), 1997 WL 226310, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 2, 1997); Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 382 (S.D.N.Y.1987); Pagano v. Chas. Beseler Co., 234 F. 963, 964 (S.D.N.Y.1916).

        191

        [82] The terminology can be still more confused. Consider this sentence, in a section of an opinion analyzing what was original, and hence protectible, in a photograph created by a freelancer in accordance with instructions from a defendant: "[D]efendants conclude that Fournier cannot assert copyright protection, to the extent that he does, over the expression of businessmen in traditional dress on their way to work, an idea which originated with McCann in any event." Fournier v. Erickson, 202 F.Supp.2d 290, 295 (S.D.N.Y.2002) (emphases added).

        192

        [83] 274 F.2d at 489.

        193

        [84] Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody, supra, at 697.

        194

        [85] 720 F.2d 231 (2d Cir.1983).

        195

        In that case, which considered the question whether the protagonist of the television series The Greatest American Hero infringed the copyright in the Superman character, Judge Newman observed that a tension between two different propositions dealing with the significance of differences between an allegedly infringing work and a copyrighted work "perhaps results from [those propositions'] formulation in the context of literary works and their subsequent application to graphic and three-dimensional works." Id. at 241.

        196

        [86] Newman, New Lyrics for an Old Melody, supra, at 698.

        197

        [87] Franklin Mint Corp. v. Nat'l Wildlife Art Exchange, Inc., 575 F.2d 62, 65 (3d Cir.1978); accord Kisch v. Ammirati & Puris Inc., 657 F.Supp. 380, 383 (S.D.N.Y.1987).

        198

        [88] 960 F.2d at 308 (first emphasis added).

        199

        [89] Def. Br. 6. See supra.

        200

        [90] See SHL Imaging, Inc. v. Artisan House, Inc., 117 F.Supp.2d 301, 314 (S.D.N.Y.2000) ("defendants' instructions were so general as to fall within the realm of unprotectible ideas. Thus, they cannot substantiate a work-for-hire authorship defense." (emphasis added)); Andersson v. Sony Corp., No. 96 Civ. 7975(RO), 1997 WL 226310, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 2, 1997) ("What these two photos may arguably share, the idea of a woman in futuristic garb becoming fascinated with an object held in her hand, is simply not protectible." (emphasis added)); Gentieu v. Tony Stone Images/Chicago, Inc., 255 F.Supp.2d 838, 849 (N.D.Ill.2003) ("Gentieu cannot claim a copyright in the idea of photographing naked or diapered babies or in any elements of expression that are intrinsic to that unprotected idea. Clearly the `poses' at issue in Gentieu's images capture the natural movements and facial expressions of infants.... Such poses are implicit in the very idea of a baby photograph and are not proper material for protection under Gentieu's copyrights." (emphases added)).

        201

        It is interesting to note that United Kingdom law faces a similar terminological problem and that the solution of Laddie and supporting authorities is to conclude that the generality of an "idea" is what determines its protectability:

        202

        "Confusion is caused in the law of copyright because of the use of the catchphrase `There is no copyright in ideas but only in the form of their expression'. Unless one understands what this means its utility is non-existent, or it is positively misleading. An artistic work of the imagination presupposes two kinds of ingredients: the conception of one or more ideas, and artistic dexterity and skill in their representation in the chosen medium. It is not the law that copyright protects the second kind of ingredient only. If that were so a debased copy which failed to capture the artist's dexterity and skill would not infringe, which plainly is not the case. Unless an artist is content merely to represent a pre-existent object (eg a building) or scene, it is part of his task as artist to exercise his imagination and in so doing he may create a pattern of ideas for incorporation in his finished work. This idea-pattern may be as much part of his work, and deserving of copyright protection, as the brushstrokes, pencil-lines, etc. The true proposition is that there is no copyright in a general idea, but that an original combination of ideas may [be protected]." 1 LADDIE § 4.43, at 212 (footnote omitted).

        203

        [91] 133 F.Supp.2d at 323 (emphases added).

        204

        [92] Yurman Design, Inc. v. PAJ, Inc., 262 F.3d 101, 111 (2d Cir.2001) (quoting Hamil America, Inc. v. GFI, 193 F.3d 92, 100 (2d Cir.1999) (quoting Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir.1960)) (internal quotation marks omitted)); accord Boisson v. Banian, Ltd., 273 F.3d 262, 272 (2d Cir.2001) (quoting Folio Impressions, Inc. v. Byer California, 937 F.2d 759, 765 (2d Cir.1991)).

        205

        [93] Hamil America, Inc., 193 F.3d at 101; accord Knitwaves, Inc. v. Lollytogs Ltd., 71 F.3d 996, 1002 (2d Cir.1995); Folio Impressions, 937 F.2d at 765-66; see also Boisson, 273 F.3d at 272.

        206

        [94] Boisson, 273 F.3d at 272 (citing Knitwaves, 71 F.3d at 1003); accord Hamil America, 193 F.3d at 101.

        207

        [95] 338 F.3d 127 (2d Cir.2003).

        208

        [96] See 237 F.Supp.2d 376, 386-88 (S.D.N.Y.2002).

        209

        [97] 338 F.3d at 130 (emphasis in original).

        210

        [98] Id. at 134-35 (emphasis in original).

        211

        [99] Id. at 132-33 (quoting Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir.1936)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

        212

        [100] 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][1][a], at 13-63.

        213

        [101] 657 F.Supp. 380, 384 (S.D.N.Y.1987).

      • 3.4.2 Source: Mannion v. Coors Brewing Co., 377 F.Supp. 2d 444 (S.D.N.Y. 2005)

  • 4 Subject Matter

    • 4.1 17 U.S.C 102

      1
      § 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general
      2

      (a) Copyright protection subsists, in accord­ance with this title, in original works of author­ship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise com­municated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Works of authorship include the following categories:

      3

      (1) literary works;

      4

      (2) musical works, including any accompany­ing words;

      5

      (3) dramatic works, including any accom­panying music;

      6

      (4) pantomimes and choreographic works;

      7

      (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

      8

      (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;

      9

      (7) sound recordings; and

      10

      (8) architectural works.

      11

      (b) In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, il­lustrated, or embodied in such work.

      12

      (Pub. L. 94–553, title I, § 101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2544; Pub. L. 101–650, title VII, § 703, Dec. 1, 1990, 104 Stat. 5133.)

    • 4.2 Non-Traditional Subject Matter

      Throughout the course we'll be reading about more traditional copyright subject matter, such as music, movies, and written work. However, as noted in 17 U.S.C 102, those only constitute a subset of materials that are eligible for copyright protection. This playlist presents cases about some of the more obscure protectable works.

      • 4.2.1 Architecture

        • 4.2.1.1 Intervest Construction v. Canterbury Estate Homes, 554 F.3d 914 (CA11 2008)

          1

          554 F.3d 914

          2
          INTERVEST CONSTRUCTION, INC., a Florida corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,
          v.
          CANTERBURY ESTATE HOMES, INC., a Florida corporation, Defendant-Appellee.
          3

          No. 07-12596.
          United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
          December 22, 2008.

          4

          [916] Kelly J.H. Garcia and Virginia Bullerman Townes, Akerman Senterfitt, Orlando, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          5

          Sidney M. Nowell, Nowell & Associates, P.A., Bunnell, FL, for Defendant-Appellee.

          6

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

          7

          Before BIRCH and DUBINA, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,[*] Judge.

          8

          BIRCH, Circuit Judge:

          9

          In this copyright infringement action the appellant contends that the district court erred when it examined the two floor-plans at issue, and, emphasizing the differences between the two, concluded "that, as a matter of law, no reasonable fact-finder could conclude" that appellant's floor-plan ("The Kensington") was substantially similar to appellee's floor-plan ("The Westminister"). More specifically, appellant ("Intervest") argues that the district court employed a "heightened 'substantial similarly' standard" by itself focusing upon certain dissimilarities between the two floor-plans at issue,[1] based upon a misinterpretation of Howard v. Sterchi, 974 F.2d 1272 (11th Cir.1992). For the reasons that follow we find no error and AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

          10
          I. BACKGROUND
          11

          In point of time, the floor plan for The Westminster was created in 1992 as a work-made-for-hire by Intervest Construction, Inc. ("Intervest"). The putatively infringing floor-plan, The Kensington, was created in 2002 by Canterbury Estate Homes, Inc. ("Canterbury"). Each floor-plan depicts a four-bedroom house, with one bedroom being denominated as a "master" bedroom or suite. Each floor plan includes a: two-car garage; living room; dining room; "family" room; foyer; "master" bathroom; kitchen; second bathroom; nook; and porch/patio. Each floorplan also reflects certain "elements" common to most houses: doors; windows; walls; bathroom fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sink); kitchen fixtures (sink, counter, refrigerator, stovetop, and pantry/cabinets); utility rooms and fixtures (washer, dryer, and sink); and closets. A cursory examination of the two floor-plans reveals that the square footage of both is approximately the same. Also, as is common to houses, there are placements of entrances, exits, hallways, openings, and utilities (furnace, air conditioner, hot water heater, and telephone hardware).

          12

          After identifying all of these unassigned components and elements of the floor-plans, the district court undertook a careful comparative analysis of the selection, coordination, and arrangement of these common components and elements. The district court focused upon the dissimilarities in such coordination and arrangement:

          13

          First, Canterbury represents that the square footage of the rooms in the two [917] designs is different, and visual examination of the floor plans appears to confirm that. In any event, Intervest seemingly does not contest the point.

          Second, the garage in The Westminster has a front entrance, while The Kensington's has a side entrance. Further, Intervest's design has an attic access from the garage, while Canterbury's version has a "bonus room" above the garage, something The Westminster lacks entirely. Moreover, the inside air conditioning unit and water heater are placed differently in the two floor plans. Additionally, The Kensington has two windows in the garage, while The Westminster has none. In The Westminster, there is a bedroom closet to the left of the utility room, whereas in The Kensington, there is a hallway in that location.

          There are three bedrooms on the left side of the two designs, with a master bedroom across the house on the right side. (Confusingly, The Kensington drawing identifies the bedroom closest to the garage and the one farthest from the garage as "Bedroom 3.") There are significant differences between the left-side bedrooms in the two drawings.

          The bedroom closest to the garage ("Bedroom 2" in The Westminster and one of two "Bedroom 3"'s in The Kensington) is shaped differently in the two designs. In The Westminster, this room's longest wall abuts the garage, whereas in The Kensington, a shorter wall separates the room from the garage. Additionally, in The Westminster, one would enter this particular room straight through a door at the end of a hallway, whereas in The Kensington, one would have to turn 90 degrees off the hallway to enter the room. Additionally, the entrance doors swing in opposite directions in the two designs. Moreover, the closets in this bedroom are situated on completely different walls in the two drawings.

          Regarding the middle bedroom on the left side ("Bedroom 3" in The Westminster and "Bedroom 2" in The Kensington), the entrances and closets are different in the two floor plans. The closet in The Westminster runs nearly the length of one wall, while the closet in The Kensington is deeper, smaller, and occupies only a corner of the bedroom. The room in The Westminster has a 45 degree entrance, beyond which is an angled wall (followed by the aforementioned long closet). The Kensington's counterpart room has a 90 degree entrance which opens flush against a 90 degree wall. Finally, the bedroom in The Westminster appears more rectangular overall than its counterpart in The Kensington.

          Moving to the last left-side bedroom ("Bedroom 4" in The Westminster and the other "Bedroom 3" in The Kensington), the same differences identified regarding the preceding bedroom also exist regarding this room, except that the smaller closet in The Kensington is located near the room's entrance, rather than in a corner.

          The hallway bathroom situated next to this bedroom is also different in the two designs. The bathroom in The Westminster appears larger. Additionally, the alignment of the right wall vis-a-vis the hallway wall is different in the two plans. Further, "the bathtubs face opposite ways in the two designs," "the bathroom sink counter space in [The Kensington] is much smaller than in [The Westminster]," and "[The Kensington's] sink is oval shaped whereas [The Westminster's] is round." Doc. 50 at 16. Finally, although the bathroom door leading to the exterior of the house swings in the same direction in both [918] plans, Canterbury notes that this is required by the fire code.

          Proceeding to the center portion of the homes, the nooks in the two plans are markedly different. In that regard,

          [The Westminster's] nook feeds into a ninety degree angle adjacent to the Porch and has windows looking both to the outside and to the Porch. On the other hand, [The Kensington's] design is rounded into the porch and is completely made of glass. There is no window to the outside or into the Covered Patio. Moreover, the entrance from the Nook into the Living Room in [The Westminster's] design has an elongated wall which travels much further into the Living Room than in [The Kensington's] design, and also fails to break inward at a ninety degree angle like in [The Kensington's] design.

          14

          Id. at 17. Further, the shapes of the living rooms are different, in part due to the dissimilarities in the layout of the nooks.

          15

          The kitchens in the two plans are also substantially different. In that connection,

          16

          the wall placement in the southeast corner of the kitchens is significantly different. [The Kensington's] design pushes this wall further into the Living Room and pushes the Kitchen Counter much further north than in [The Westminster's] design. This allows [The Kensington's] design to have a much larger Pantry than [The Westminster's] design.

          [Further, The Westminster's] design has a retractable door on its pantry which opens at a ninety degree angle while [The Kensington's] has a solid door which opens at a forty-five degree angle. Additionally, . . . [The Kensington's] kitchen counter is much thinner and longer than [The Westminster's] which places the dishwasher in a different location. Finally, . . . [The Kensington's] Kitchen has an Island as well as an entrance to a hallway running down the left side of the Utility Room while [The Westminster's] design has none of these features.

          17

          Id. at 17-18.

          18

          Moving to the right side of the house, there are material dissimilarities in the foyer, the master bedroom, and the master bath. The front entrance to The Westminster "has one solid door with windows on either side while [The Kensington's] front entrance has a pair of glass French Doors." Id. at 18. Further, "the Master Bedroom in [The Kensington's] design contains glass French Doors on the far left side of the back wall which opens into a Covered Patio," whereas The Westminster "simply has a sliding glass door in the center of the back wall which opens to an uncovered Porch." Id. Additionally, in The Kensington's master bath, "the doors to the walk-in closets . . . are solid and open in different directions than those [in the Westminster], which uses a retractable door." Id. Finally, the sinks in the master bath are placed differently in the two designs. In The Kensington, the sinks are centered; in The Westminster, they are not. R1-69 at 5-8. (footnotes omitted).

          19

          Given the number of dissimilarities in the respective coordination and arrangement of these non-original, commonplace elements and components, the district court ruled that no reasonable observer could conclude that the copyrightable elements of the two floor-plans were substantially similar. [919]

          20
          II. DISCUSSION
          21

          Since we are dealing with a specific type of copyrightable work, here an architectural work, we begin by examining the statutory definition of an "architectural work," to wit: "the design of a building as embodied in any tangible medium of expression, including a building, architectural plans or drawings. The work includes the overall form as well as the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design, but does not include individual standard features." 17 U.S.C. § 101 (2008). A review of the legislative history discloses that such "individual standard features" include "common windows, doors, and other staple building components." H.R.Rep. No. 101-735 (1990) as reprinted in 1990 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6935, 6949. Including the phrase "the arrangement and composition of spaces and elements in the design" demonstrates Congress' appreciation that "creativity in architecture frequently takes the form of a selection, coordination, or arrangement of unprotectible elements into an original, protectible whole." Id. Accordingly, while individual standard features and architectural elements classifiable as ideas or concepts are not themselves copyrightable, an architect's original combination or arrangement of such elements may be. See Corwin v. Walt Disney Co., 475 F.3d 1239, 1251 (11th Cir.2007). Thus, the definition of an architectural work closely parallels that of a "compilation" under the statute, that is: "[A] work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." 17 U.S.C. § 101. The Supreme Court in Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991), and our court in BellSouth Adver. & Publ'g Corp. v. Donnelley Info. Publ'g, Inc., 999 F.2d 1436 (11th Cir.1993) (en banc) and Oravec v. Sunny Isles Luxury Ventures, L.C., 527 F.3d 1218 (11th Cir. 2008), indicated that the compiler's choices as to selection coordination, or arrangement are the only portions of a compilation, or here, architectural work, that are even entitled to copyright protection. Accordingly, any similarity comparison of the works at issue here must be accomplished at the level of protected expression[2] — that is, the arrangement and coordination of those common elements ("selected" by the market place, i.e., rooms, windows, doors, and "other staple building components"). In undertaking such a comparison it should be recalled that the copyright protection in a compilation is "thin." Feist, 499 U.S. at 349, 111 S.Ct. at 1289. Moreover, as the Second Circuit has noted, the substantial similarity inquiry is "narrowed" when dealing with a compilation. Key Publications, Inc. v. Chinatown Today Publ'g Enter., Inc., 945 F.2d 509, 514 (2d Cir.1991).

          22

          Thus, when viewed through the narrow lens of compilation analysis only the original, and thus protected arrangement and coordination of spaces, elements and other staple building components should be compared.[3] We have recognized [920] that summary judgment may be inappropriate in certain types of copyright infringement cases. However, we have approved the use of summary judgment particularly in cases where: (1) because access has been established, the crucial issue is substantial similarity; (2) there may be substantial similarity with respect to the non-copyrightable elements of the two works compared; and, (3) as to the protectable elements, there is substantial dissimilarity. See Oravec 527 F.3d at 1223; Beal v. Paramount Pictures, Corp. 20 F.3d 454, 459-60 (11th Cir.1994). In fact, when the crucial question in a dispute involving compilations is substantial similarity at the level of protectable expression, it is often more reliably and accurately resolved in a summary judgment proceeding. This is so because a judge is better able to separate original expression from the non-original elements of a work where the copying of the latter is not protectable and the copying of the former is protectable. The judge understands the concept of the idea/expression dichotomy and how it should be applied in the context of the works before him. As we have observed: "This distinction — known as the idea/expression dichotomy — can be difficult to apply, as there is no bright line separating the ideas conveyed by a work from the specific expression of those ideas." Oravec, 527 F.3d at 1224. Moreover, in examining compilations wherein only the arrangement and coordination of elements which by the nature of the work (here architectural floor plans) are sure to be common to each of the works and are not copyrightable themselves (spacial depictions of rooms, doors, windows, walls, etc.), the already difficult tasks may become even more nuanced. Because a judge will more readily understand that all copying is not infringement, particularly in the context of works that are compilations, the "substantial-similarity" test is more often correctly administered by a judge rather than a jury — even one provided proper instruction. The reason for this is plain — the ability to separate protectable expression from non-protectable expression is, in reality, a question of law or, at the very least, a mixed question of law and fact. It is difficult for a juror, even properly instructed, to conclude, after looking at two works, that there is no infringement where, say, 90% of one is a copy of the other, but only 15% of the work is protectable expression that has not been copied. Part of the problem, which we have recognized, is that the term "substantial similarity" has not always been used with precision. Beal, 20 F.3d at 459 n. 4. When courts have dealt with copyright infringement claims involving creative types of works, "substantial similarity" has been defined as existing "where an average lay observer would recognize the alleged copy as having been appropriated from the copyrighted work." Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. v. Toy Loft, Inc., 684 F.2d 821, 829 (11th Cir.1982) (quotation marks and citation omitted) (the first copyright case decided by the Eleventh Circuit after its split-off [921] from the "old" Fifth Circuit involving a soft sculpture doll, a creative work that was to be later known as a "Cabbage Patch Kid"). However, as noted above, while a creative work is entitled to the most protection, a compilation is entitled to the least, narrowest or "thinnest" protection. See Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co., 268 F.3d 1257, 1271 (11th Cir. 2001); see also Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. 510 U.S. 569, 586, 114 S.Ct. 1164, 1175, 127 L.Ed.2d 500 (1994); Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539, 563, 105 S.Ct. 2218, 2232, 85 L.Ed.2d 588 (1985). Accordingly, when courts have examined copyright infringement claims involving compilations the definition of "substantial similarity" has been appropriately modified to accentuate the narrower scope of protection available, to wit:

          23

          Not all copying constitutes infringement, however, see Feist, 499 U.S. at 361, 111 S.Ct. at 1296, and therefore we have emphasized that the substantial similarity analysis "must focus on similarity of expression, i.e., material susceptible of copyright protection." Beal, 20 F.3d at 459, n. 4; see also Leigh [v. Warner Bros., Inc., 212 F.3d 1210] at 1214 (stating that a copyright plaintiff "must establish specifically that the allegedly infringing work is substantially similar to the plaintiff's work with regard to its protected elements").

          24

          Oravec, 527 F.3d at 1224 (emphasis in original) (involving a dispute over architectural plans); see also BellSouth, 999 F.2d 1436 (telephone directories); Warren Publ'g Inc., 115 F.3d 1509 (cable television fact books); Bateman v. Mnemonics, Inc., 79 F.3d 1532 (11th Cir.1996) (computer code); MiTek Holdings, Inc. v. Arce Eng'g, Inc., 89 F.3d 1548 (11th Cir.1996) (computer code); Leigh, 212 F.3d 1210 (photographs).

          25

          Here the district court carefully compared the protectable aspects of the two floor-plans at issue, thus focusing only on the narrow arrangement and coordination of otherwise standard architectural features. At the conclusion of its analysis identifying many dissimilarities or differences in the two floor plans, the court made essentially the same ruling that we approved of in Oravec: "At the level of protected expression, the differences between the designs are so significant that no reasonable, properly instructed jury could find the works substantially similar." Oravec, 527 F.3d at 1227.

          26
          III. CONCLUSION
          27

          Here the appellant, plaintiff below, contends that the district court erred in focusing its comparison of common architectural elements in two designs for a four-bedroom house on the dissimilarities between the two floor plans. Given that the plans at issue were protected by compilation copyrights which were "thin," the district court correctly determined that the differences in the protectable expression were so significant that, as a matter of law, no reasonable properly-instructed jury of lay observers could find the works substantially similar. Accordingly, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to the appellee, the putative infringer.

          28

          AFFIRMED. [922]

          29
          APPENDIX
          30

          NOTE: OPINION CONTAINING TABLE OR OTHER DATA THAT IS NOT VIEWABLE

          31

          [*] Honorable Richard W. Goldberg, United States Court of International Trade Judge, sitting by designation.

          32

          [1] The two floor-plans at issue are attached hereto as an appendix.

          33

          [2] The Feist Court further explained:

          34

          This protection is subject to an important limitation. The mere fact that a work is copyrighted does not mean that every element of the work may be protected. Originality remains the sine qua non of copyright: accordingly, copyright protection may extend only to those components of a work that are original to the author.

          35

          Feist at 348, 111. S.Ct. at 1289.

          36

          [3] There are three types of work that are entitled to copyright protection—creative, derivative, and compiled. Copyrights in these three distinct works are known as creative, derivative, and compilation copyrights. An example of a creative work is a novel. An example of a derivative work is a screenplay based on a novel; it is called "derivative" because it is based on a preexisting work that has been recast, transformed, or adapted. An example of a compilation is [the floor plans at issue in this case.] The [Copyright] Act has created a hierarchy in terms of the protection afforded to these different types of copyrights. A creative work is entitled to the most protection, followed by a derivative work, and finally by a compilation. This is why the Feist Court emphasized that the copyright protection in a factual compilation is "thin."

          37

          Warren Publishing, Inc. v. Microdos Data Corp., 115 F.3d 1509, 1515 n. 16 (11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

        • 4.2.1.2 "The Westminster," Intervest Construction, Inc. (1992)

        • 4.2.1.3 "The Kensington," Canterbury Estate Homes, Inc. (2002)

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