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Supreme Court of the United States
March 29, 1989, Argued ; June 5, 1989, Decided
[*732] [***819] [**2168] JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
 In this case, an artist and the organization that hired him to produce a sculpture contest the ownership of the copyright in that work. To resolve this dispute, we must construe the "work made for hire" provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 (Act or 1976 Act), 17 U. S. C. §§ 101 [***820] and 201(b), and in particular, the provision in § 101, which defines as a "work made for hire" a "work prepared by an employee [**2169] within the scope of his or her employment" (hereinafter § 101(1)).
Petitioners are the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), a nonprofit unincorporated association dedicated to eliminating homelessness in America, and Mitch Snyder, a member and trustee of CCNV. In the fall of 1985, CCNV decided to participate [****8] in the annual Christmastime Pageant of Peace in Washington, D. C., by sponsoring a display to dramatize the plight of the homeless. As the District Court recounted:
"Snyder and fellow CCNV members conceived the idea for the nature of the display: a sculpture of a modern Nativity scene in which, in lieu of the traditional Holy Family, the two adult figures and the infant would appear as contemporary homeless people huddled on a streetside steam grate. The family was to be black (most of the homeless in Washington being black); the figures were to be life-sized, and the steam grate would be positioned atop a platform 'pedestal,' or base, within which special-effects equipment would be enclosed to emit simulated 'steam' through the grid to swirl about the figures. They also settled upon a title for the work -- 'Third World America' -- and a legend for the pedestal: 'and still there is no room at the inn.'" 652 F. Supp. 1453, 1454 (DC 1987).
Snyder made inquiries to locate an artist to produce the sculpture. He was referred to respondent James Earl Reid, a Baltimore, Maryland, sculptor. In the course of two telephone calls, Reid agreed to sculpt the three human [****9] figures. CCNV agreed to make the steam grate and pedestal for the statue. Reid proposed that the work be cast in bronze, at a total cost of approximately $ 100,000 and taking six to eight months to complete. Snyder rejected that proposal because CCNV did not have sufficient funds, and because the statue had to be completed by December 12 to be included in the pageant. Reid then suggested, and Snyder agreed, that the [*734] sculpture would be made of a material known as "Design Cast 62," a synthetic substance that could meet CCNV's monetary and time constraints, could be tinted to resemble bronze, and could withstand the elements. The parties agreed that the project would cost no more than $ 15,000, not including Reid's services, which he offered to donate. The parties did not sign a written agreement. Neither party mentioned copyright.
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490 U.S. 730 *; 109 S. Ct. 2166 **; 104 L. Ed. 2d 811 ***; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 2727 ****; 10 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1985; 57 U.S.L.W. 4607; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P26,425; 16 Media L. Rep. 1769
COMMUNITY FOR CREATIVE NON-VIOLENCE ET AL. v. REID
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 270 U. S. App. D. C. 26, 846 F. 2d 1485, affirmed.
hire, commissioned, sculpture, hiring party, parties, employees, terms, right to control, independent contractor, Revision, actual control, petitioners', provisions, ownership, statue, enumerated, rights, legislative history, supervised, homeless, figures, steam, common law, Copyright Act, Copyright Law, Supplementary, publishers, authors, factors, grate
Copyright Law, Scope of Copyright Protection, Ownership Interests, Works Made for Hire, International Trade Law, Exports & Imports, Merchandise Classification, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Wrongful Termination, Breach of Contract, Express Contracts, Assignments & Transfers, Divisibility of Rights, Duration & Renewal, Renewal, Initial Ownership, Protected Subject Matter, Limited Protection for Ideas, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Employment Relationships, At Will Employment, Definition of Employees