US District court says that the artistic license is a contract
Posted Aug 28, 2007 22:31 UTC (Tue) by branden
In reply to: US District court says that the artistic license is a contract
Parent article: US District court says that the artistic license is a contract
Thanks for pointing that out; somehow I missed it. Nevertheless, I think Effects Associates v. Cohen is strongly distinguishable from this case because its holding on nonexclusivity was applied by the appellate court only to an unwritten, implied copyright license.
B. Nonexclusive Licenses
 Although we reject any suggestion that moviemakers are immune to section 204, we note that there is a narrow exception to the writing requirement that may apply here. Section 204 provides that all transfers of copyright ownership must be in writing; section 101 defines transfers of ownership broadly, but expressly removes from the scope of section 204 a "nonexclusive license." See note 2 supra. The sole issue that remains, then, is whether Cohen had a nonexclusive license to use plaintiff's special effects footage.
 The leading treatise on copyright law states that "[a] nonexclusive license may be granted orally, or may even be implied from conduct." 3 M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright <section> 10.03[A], at 10-36 (1989). Cohen relies on the latter proposition; he insists that, although Effects never gave him a written or oral license, Effects's conduct created an implied license to use the footage in "The Stuff."
Cohen relies largely on our decision in Oddo v. Ries, 743 F.2d 630 (9th Cir.1984). There, we held that Oddo, the author of a series of articles on how to restore Ford F-100 pickup trucks, had impliedly granted a limited non-exclusive license to Ries, a publisher, to use plaintiff's articles in a book on the same topic. We relied on the fact that Oddo and Ries had formed a partnership to create and publish the book, with Oddo writing and Ries providing capital. Id. at 632 & n. 1. Oddo prepared a manuscript consisting partly of material taken from his prior articles and submitted it to Ries. Id. at 632. Because the manuscript incorporated pre-existing material, it was a derivative work; by publishing it, Ries would have necessarily infringed the copyright in Oddo's articles, unless Oddo had granted him a license. Id. at 634. We concluded that, in preparing and handing over to Ries a manuscript intended for publication that, if published, would infringe Oddo's copyright, Oddo "impliedly gave the partnership a license to use the articles insofar as they were incorporated in the manuscript, for without such a license, Oddo's contribution to the partnership venture would have been of minimal value." Id. [FN5]
 The district court agreed with Cohen, and we agree with the district court: Oddo controls here. Like the plaintiff in Oddo, Effects created a work at defendant's request and handed it over, intending that defendant copy and distribute it. [FN6] *559 To hold that Effects did not at the same time convey a license to use the footage in "The Stuff" would mean that plaintiff's contribution to the film was "of minimal value,"a conclusion that can't be squared with the fact that Cohen paid Effects almost $56,000 for this footage. Accordingly, we conclude that Effects impliedly granted nonexclusive licenses to Cohen and his production company to incorporate the special effects footage into "The Stuff" and to New World Entertainment to distribute the film. [FN7]
I think it is perfectly reasonable to construe an implied license generously. Written copyright licenses, however, are not "implied".
How similar is the relationship between Oddo and Reis to Jacobsen and Katzer/KAM? In what way did Jacobsen enter a business partnership with Katzer/KAM? Why do we need to conjecture about implied licenses when Jacobsen explicitly and conspicuously stated the terms of his nonexclusive license in written form accompanying the work?
Similarly, how are Jacobsen and Katzer/KAM similar to the immediate precedent cited, Effects v. Cohen? Where did money change hands? And again, why is the judge reaching conclusions of law grounded on facts contradictory to those stipulated by the parties? How is the Artistic License an "implied" license?
I suspect the judge in the LMRI case, or his clerk, skipped right to the conclusion of the decision, which omits this crucial distinction:
We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Cohen and the other defendants. We note, however, that plaintiff doesn't leave this court empty-handed. Copyright ownership is comprised of a bundle of rights; in granting a nonexclusive license to Cohen, Effects has given up only one stick from that bundle--the right to sue Cohen for copyright infringement. It retains the right to sue him in state court on a variety of other grounds, including breach of contract. [...]
Various unsavory terms for Judge Jeffery S. White come to mind, but as LWN strives to maintain decorum, I'll just invite the reader's imagination to supply some. It may be enough to note some similarity between between Judge White and the man who appointed him to the federal courts.
to post comments)