Law School Case Brief
Mirage Editions, Inc. v. Albuquerque A.R.T. Co. - 856 F.2d 1341
Congress intended that for a violation of the right to prepare derivative works to occur, the infringing work must incorporate a portion of the copyrighted work in some form. The language "recast, transformed or adapted," 17 U.S.C.S. § 101 (1976), seems to encompass other alternatives besides simple art reproduction. By removing individual images from a book and placing them on tiles, perhaps the infringer has not accomplished reproduction, however, he has certainly recast or transformed the individual images by incorporating them into his tile-preparing process.
Plaintiffs, Mirage Editions, Inc., Jennifer Dumas, and Alfred Van Der Marck Editions, Inc. (together, Mirage) were certain copyright holders and licensee, holding the rights to various artworks that had been produced by a certain artist. Many prints of these works were published in a commemorative book. Defendant Albuquerque A.R.T. (A.R.T.) bought this book, removed selected prints, mounted the prints onto ceramic tiles, and sold the tiles at retail. Plaintiffs then sued defendant for, inter alia, copyright infringement. Both parties moved for summary judgment. Plaintiffs' motion was granted and summary judgment entered in their favor, holding that A.R.T. infringed Mirage’s copyrights in the individual images through its tile-preparing process. The district court further concluded that the resulting products comprised derivative works. A.R.T. appealed, arguing that there has been no copyright infringement because its tiles were not derivative works, and the "first sale" doctrine precluded a finding of infringement.
- Were the ceramic tiles derivative works?
- Did the “first sale” doctrine preclude a finding of infringement?
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that by borrowing and mounting pre-existing copyrighted art images without the copyright owners' and licensee's consent, A.R.T. had prepared derivative works in violation of the exclusive rights of plaintiffs under 17 U.S.C.S. § 106. Anent the second issue, the Court averred that the "first sale" exception of 17 U.S.C.S. § 109(a) did not apply because A.R.T.'s rights thereunder were limited to transfer of his ownership interests in the particular copy of Mirage's book that A.R.T. had purchased and nothing else. Mirage's exclusive rights to prepare derivative works remained unimpaired.
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