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Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

Supreme Court of the United States

April 2, 2003, Argued ; June 2, 2003, Decided

No. 02-428


 [1642]  [*25]  [**2043]    Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we are asked to decide whether § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) [15 USCS § 1125(a)], prevents the unaccredited copying of a work, and if so, whether a court may double a profit award under § 1117(a), in order to deter future infringing conduct.

 [**2044]  I

In 1948, three and a half years after the German surrender at Reims, General Dwight D. Eisenhower completed Crusade [****6]  in Europe, his written account of the allied campaign in  [***27]  Europe during World War II. Doubleday published the book, registered it with the Copyright Office in 1948, and granted exclusive television rights to an affiliate of respondent Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Fox). Fox, in turn, arranged for Time, Inc., to produce a television series, also  [*26]  called Crusade in Europe, based on the book, and Time assigned its copyright in the series to Fox. The television series, consisting of 26 episodes, was first broadcast in 1949. It combined a soundtrack based on a narration of the book with film footage from the United States Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, the British Ministry of Information and War Office, the National Film Board of Canada, and unidentified "Newsreel Pool Cameramen." In 1975, Doubleday renewed the copyright on the book as the "'proprietor of copyright in a work made for hire.'" App. to Pet for Cert. 9a. Fox, however, did not renew the copyright on the Crusade television series, which expired in 1977, leaving the television series in the public domain.

In 1988, Fox reacquired the television rights in General Eisenhower's book, including the exclusive right to distribute [****7]  the Crusade television series on video and to sub-license others to do so. Respondents SFM Entertainment and New Line Home Video, Inc.,  [1643]  in turn, acquired from Fox the exclusive rights to distribute Crusade on video. SFM obtained the negatives of the original television series, restored them, and repackaged the series on videotape; New Line distributed the videotapes.

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539 U.S. 23 *; 123 S. Ct. 2041 **; 156 L. Ed. 2d 18 ***; 2003 U.S. LEXIS 4276 ****; 66 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1641; 71 U.S.L.W. 4415; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P28,622; 2003 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4554; 2003 Daily Journal DAR 5799; 194 A.L.R. Fed. 731; 16 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 330


Subsequent History: Motion denied by Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 540 U.S. 806, 157 L. Ed. 2d 19, 124 S. Ct. 371, 2003 U.S. LEXIS 5467 (U.S., 2003)

Dismissed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. Dastar Corp., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21194 (C.D. Cal., Oct. 14, 2003)


Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. v. Entm't Distrib., 34 Fed. Appx. 312, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 7426 (2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


Lanham Act, television series, video, producer, Campaigns, trademark, infringement, copied, patent, film, passing off, videotapes, creator, cause of action, distribute, expired, manufactured, attribution, misleading, rights, false designation, television, purchaser, commerce, products, designs, renewed, unfair, Boats

Business & Corporate Compliance, Federal Unfair Competition Law, False Designation of Origin, Reverse Palming Off, Trademark Law, General Overview, Entertainment Industry Falsity & Performance Misattribution, Trade Dress Protection, Unfair Competition, False Advertising, Elements of False Designation of Origin, Lanham Act, Causes of Action Involving Trademarks, Infringement Actions, Particular Subject Matter, Geographic Terms, Protectable Terms, Terms Ineligible for Protection, Causes of Action, Copyright Law, Scope of Copyright Protection, Assignments & Transfers, Patent Law, Ownership, Conveyances, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation