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Law School Case Brief

Zuk v. E. Pa. Psychiatric Inst. of the Med. Coll. of Pa. - CIVIL ACTION NO. 95-2238, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11334 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 3, 1995)

Rule:

Derivative works, 17 U.S.C.S. § 101, are separately copyrightable. 

Facts:

While the psychologist, Gerald Zuk, was employed at the institution, he wrote a book. The book was registered by Zuk with the United States Copyright Office. In conjunction with the book, he caused two illustrative films to be made. The films were for use as instructional tools. After other agencies and individuals began requesting copies of the films, the psychologist arranged to have copies of the films made, and he arranged to have the institution's audio-visual department handle distribution and rental of the films. After his employment with the institution was terminated, he requested the return of all copies of the films. The institution sent him one copy of each film. The psychologist contended that the institution continued to use the copies as training films, which he alleged that was copyright infringement. The institution filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief might be granted.

Issue:

Did plaintiff fail to state a claim for copyright infringement?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The district court held that the action was precluded by 17 U.S.C.S. § 411(a) because the psychologist had never registered the copyright on the films. His registered copyright in the book was not sufficient to give copyright protection in the films because, at best, the films were derivative works. It is undisputed that defendant lawfully obtained the copies of the film in its possession (indeed, defendant apparently paid to have the copies made) and that the defendant was authorized by plaintiff to use these copies as teaching tools, etc. Any continued use of these copies would seemingly amount to "fair use," rather than infringement. Plaintiff's argument seems to assume that the owner of a copyright is also the owner of all copies of the copyrighted work. This is simply wrong.

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