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  • 1 17 U.S.C 102

    § 102. Subject matter of copyright: In general

    (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:


    (1) literary works;


    (2) musical works, including any accompany­ing words;


    (3) dramatic works, including any accom­panying music;


    (4) pantomimes and choreographic works;


    (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;


    (6) motion pictures and other audiovisual works;


    (7) sound recordings; and


    (8) architectural works.


    (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.


    (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.)

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


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

    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.,

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


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


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


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


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


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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    [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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    Mr. Justice Harlan, dissenting:


    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.


    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.


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

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


    499 U.S. 340 (1991)

    Feist Publications, Inc.
    Rural Telephone Service Co., Inc.

    No. 89-1909


    Supreme Court of the United States


    Argued January 9, 1991


    Decided March 27, 1991




    Kyler Knobbe argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.


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


    JUSTICE O'CONNOR delivered the opinion of the Court.


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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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").


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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:


    "[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.


    "[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).


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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:

    "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).

    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").


    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]


    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).


    "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.


    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).


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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.


    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."


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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].


    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:

    "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).

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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."


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    The judgment of the Court of Appeals is




    JUSTICE BLACKMUN concurs in the judgment.


    [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.


    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.


    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.


    [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.

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

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

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

      [446] Mary D. Dorman, for Plaintiff.


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


      KAPLAN, District Judge.


      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.


      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]


      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]


      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]


      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]


      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]


      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.

      A. Summary Judgment Standard

      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]

      B. The Elements of Copyright Infringement

      "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]


      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.

      C. Determining the Protectible Elements of the Garnett Photograph

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

      1. Protectible Elements of Photographs

      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]


      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]


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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]


      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]


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

      a. Rendition

      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]


      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.


      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.

      b. Timing

      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.


      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:


      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]


      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.


      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.


      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.

      c. Creation of the Subject

      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]


      [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]


      * * * * * *


      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.


      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]

      2. Originality of the Garnett Photograph

      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.


      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.


      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.


      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:


      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]

      3. The Idea / Expression Difficulty

      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]


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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?


      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]


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


      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]


      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]


      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.


      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.


      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]


      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:


      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]


      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:


      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]


      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.


      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!"


      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.


      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.


      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.

      D. Comparison of the Coors Billboard and the Garnett Photograph

      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.


      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:


      [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]


      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.


      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:


      "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]


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      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]


      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.


      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.








      [1] Mannion Decl. ¶ 1.


      [2] Id. ¶ 3.


      [3] See Pl.Ex. A.


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


      [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.


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


      [7] Cook Decl. ¶ 2.


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


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


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


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


      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.


      [12] See Pl.Ex. B.


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


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


      [15] Cook Decl. ¶ 7.


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


      [17] Mannion Decl. ¶ 20.


      [18] Am. Cpt. Ex. A.


      [19] Id.


      [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).


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


      [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).


      [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).


      [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).


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


      [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)).


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


      [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.


      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.


      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).


      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.


      [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).


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


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


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


      [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.").


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


      [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).


      [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)).


      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").


      [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.").


      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.


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


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


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


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


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


      [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).




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


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


      [47] Id.


      [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.").


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


      [50] Id. at 311.


      [51] 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.


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


      [53] Id. at 964.


      [54] A digital image of the photograph may be found at — 38089.aspx (last visited July 20, 2005).


      [55] A digital image appears at ID=69 (last visited July 20, 2005).


      [56] See, e.g., (last visited July 20, 2005); http://wwwätBrooksFalls.htm (last visited July 20, 2005).


      [57] 1 LADDIE § 4.57, at 229.


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


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


      [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).


      [61] 960 F.2d at 304.


      [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.").


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


      [64] 212 F. at 930-31.


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


      [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.


      [66] Mannion Decl. ¶¶ 4-7, 9.


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


      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.


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


      [69] Def. Br. 6.


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


      [71] 4 NIMMER § 13.03[B][3].


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


      [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:


      "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.


      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.


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


      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).


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


      [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.").


      [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.


      [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.


      [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.


      [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....").


      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.


      [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).


      [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).


      [83] 274 F.2d at 489.


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


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


      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.


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


      [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).


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


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


      [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)).


      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:


      "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).


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


      [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)).


      [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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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