A court may resolve fair use determinations at the summary judgment stage where there are no genuine issues of material fact. An appellate court reviews a trial court's legal conclusions de novo and its findings of fact for clear error.
Plaintiff was the producer and copyright owner of each episode of the Seinfeld television series. Defendants were the author and publisher of a book containing trivia questions and answers about events and characters depicted in the television series. The book drew from the majority of television episodes. The name of the television series appeared prominently on the book's front and back covers and pictures of the principal television actors appeared on the cover and within the book. However, the back cover contained a disclaimer stating that the book was not approved or licensed by any entity involved in creating or producing the television show. Plaintiff filed an action against defendants alleging federal copyright and trademark infringement and state law unfair competition. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff on the copyright claim and defendants were permanently enjoined from publishing book. Parties stipulated to dismissal of remaining claims.
Did the defendants commit a copyright infringement violation?
The court affirmed the order granting summary judgment to plaintiff producer of the television series Seinfeld and permanently enjoining defendants, the author and publisher of a book about the events and characters in the series, from actual publication because plaintiff showed that information from the copyrighted television series was actually copied by defendants and that the copying amounted to an improper or unlawful appropriation.