Law is Phun!

11 05 2008

So a while back, I was researching copyright cases, and I read a footnote about how one case would now be on the judge’s list of amusing case names. I thought that was an interesting comment. Here it is…

Easter Seal Soc. for Crippled Children & Adults, Inc. v. Playboy Enterprises,

815 F.2d 323 (5th Cir. La. 1987)

(the judge called this case name “delightful” and referred to the other two that follow in subsequent posts)

– Okay, I know you are dying to know… what possible beef could the crippled children have with good ol’ Hugh? Well basically, according to the case, Easter Seals worked with a PBS station to get footage of a staged mardi gras parade for a telethon.

That PBS station later responded to a request from a producer in Canada seeking mardi gras footage. The station was unaware of the end user for the footage, but it was bought by a producer for a… movie.

Unhappy that their parade was now in a film called “Candy the Stripper,” showing on the Playboy Channel, Easter Seals sued Playboy in federal court for copyright violation. But the court ruled that since the Easter Seals was not the author of the video, they had no standing for a copyright suit.

The videographer was not an employee of Easter Seals, he was an employee of the station, so Easter Seals did not own the copyright, the station did. Thus they could not sue. Summary judgment for the defendant was upheld (case dismissed).

This is a great case because it goes into great detail about the concept of work-for-hire; the definition of employee; how courts have evolved in determining whether a commissioned work is a work-for-hire with a copyright transfer over the years; and how the Copyright Act of 1976 took that evolution and put it into statute, partially adopting and partially modifying case law of the time. It addresses some of the ambiguity of the work-for-hire doctrine.

If you really want to read an in-depth evaluation of the work-for-hire doctrine, this case is a great place to start. I simply don’t want to make this post any longer, but this case is a great read. (and thanks to Circuit Judge Gee, for pointing out the other cases U.S. v. Satan, and Mrs. Moffat’s Powder for Drunkenness)

If you have comments on this case, please post them.

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