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Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, Inc. - 191 F.2d 99 (2d Cir. 1951)


All that is needed to satisfy both the U.S. Constitution and the Copyright Act is that the author contributed something more than a merely trivial variation, something recognizably his own. Originality in this context means little more than a prohibition of actual copying. No matter how poor artistically the author's addition, it is enough if it be his own. 


In an action for copyright infringement, the district court awarded the plaintiff damages and attorney's fees. The defendants appealed.


Was the district court's award proper?




The Court modified and affirmed the judgment, striking the portion of the judgment allowing defendants a deduction for their income taxes because the infringement was committed neither in good faith. The Court held that defendants' open and unabashed piracy was not a mark of good faith; thus, their claim that plaintiff's copyright was invalid was not justified. The Court also held that defendants' attack on the constitutionality of the Copyright Act was without merit because the U.S. Constitution provided different standards for patents and copyrights. Defendants' contention that reproductions of works in the public domain could not be copyrighted was also untenable. Finally, the Court held that defendants failed to establish an antitrust unclean hands defense.

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