HOFHEINZ v. A & E TELEVISION NETWORKSNo. 00 Civ. 0623(RWS).
146 F.Supp.2d 442 (2001)
Susan Nicholson HOFHEINZ, Plaintiff,
A & E TELEVISION NETWORKS and Weller/Grossman Productions, Inc., Defendants.
A & E TELEVISION NETWORKS and Weller/Grossman Productions, Inc., Defendants.
United States District Court, S.D. New York.
June 27, 2001.
Gregory A. Sioris, New York City, for Plaintiff.
Dorsey & Whitney by Douglas C. Fairhurst, New York City, for Defendants.
SWEET, District Judge.
Defendants A & E Television Networks ("A & E") and Weller/Grossman Productions, Inc. ("Weller/Grossman") have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.56 to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Susan Nicholas Hofheinz ("Hofheinz") alleging copyright infringement of the film "It Conquered the World", portions of which were used in a biography of Peter Graves, aired on A & E. Because there is no genuine dispute as to the material facts in this case and the footage used in the A & E biography constitutes "fair use" under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107, the motion is granted.
Parties and Prior Proceedings
A & E is a cable network, supplying a 24 hour schedule of programming to cable and satellite operators, who in turn supply the programming to their subscribers. A & E's programs consist of documentaries, off-network dramatic productions and original motion pictures. It derives its revenues largely from advertisers and fees charged for cable operator licenses.
Weller/Grossman is a California-based production company that produces documentaries, biographies and historical programs. Weller/Grossman produced the biography of Peter Graves which was aired by A & E giving rise to this action.
Susan Hofheinz owns the copyright to the 1956 science fiction film, "It Conquered the World". "It Conquered the World" stars Peter Graves in one of his earliest Hollywood performances as well as Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef and Beulah, the monster. The movie was produced by American International Pictures, whose principals were James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff. Mr. Nicholson is the late husband of Ms. Hofheinz.
The complaint in this action alleging infringement of the copyright in "It Conquered the World," by the defendants in producing and airing the biography of Peter Graves was filed on January 8, 2000. The instant motion was heard and marked fully submitted on March 28, 2001.
The facts are derived from the parties' Rule 56.1 submissions and are undisputed.
On April 4, 1997, defendant A & E broadcast to its cable licensees, as part of its "Biography" series, the program, "Peter Graves: Mission Accomplished," a biography of the actor Peter Graves. The program was an hour long (with commercials) and produced by defendant Weller/Grossman.
Each of A & E's "Biography" programs deals with the life of some famous or well-known person, usually someone prominent in history, politics, business or the arts. The series has a narrator-host, either Jack Perkins or Peter Graves, and develops and treats the life of its subject through comment and brief interviews with persons who knew or have written about the person. The visual content of the series often includes photographs, film and audio-visual material when available.
Early into the Peter Graves biography, brief clips from several of his earliest motion
The subject program, "Peter Graves: Mission Accomplished" is a biography. It was produced for a wide commercial audience and for profit, but a work that treats as its subject the life of a well-known television and motion picture actor. The Peter Graves biography is approximately 44 minutes long (60 minutes with commercials) and covers the formative years of his life and his career as a television and screen actor. The program narrator is "Biography" host Jack Perkins and Graves himself, members of his family and professional colleagues review the major achievements of his life. The program devotes considerable attention to Graves' work, starting with an account of his earliest efforts as a stage actor in college, moving through his first Hollywood films in the 1950's, his recognized performance in "Stalag 17" and then on to his television career in "Fury" and ultimately to "Mission Impossible," the motion picture "Airplane," and Graves as host of A & E's "Biography." Film clips and short pieces of videotape of Graves in these and other roles are employed to show Graves' development and versatility as an actor and his principal achievements; still photographs of Graves and his family, movie posters and shots of Hollywood in the late 1940's supply some of the background.
Made in 1956, "It Conquered the World" was one of Graves' earliest appearances in a Hollywood film. Graves played a scientist trying to stop a colleague and an alien invader (a Venutian named Beulah) from achieving their objective of world domination. Speaking generally of the mid-1950's science fiction genre, the "Biography" narrator explains, "While these pictures may seem campy by current standards, they were popular films at the time. And the young actor treated them as serious business." A short clip from "Killers From Space" follows, a few seconds more of Graves commentary and then 20 seconds from "It Conquered the World." In the case of "It Conquered the World," it was not the film itself that was shown, but rather 20 seconds of footage edited from a promotional trailer that had once presaged the film's booking in theaters. A "trailer" (or "preview of a coming attraction") is simply film footage of scenes in a motion picture shown in a theater a week or so in advance of the picture itself, usually with graphics and a voice-over promoting the movie. The clip shows Graves in short scenes, each lasting a few seconds, taken out of sequence from the film. The trailer carries an announcer's voice-over track and displays prominent graphics superimposed over the first few seconds of footage that identify the picture.
Hofheinz does not have an independent registered copyright in the trailer, and there is no allegation or evidence that there is any copyright in the trailer itself. The motion picture from which the trailer footage derived, however, was (and still is) copyrighted. Through a series of assignment and litigation in 1994, the movie became the property of Ms. Hofheinz. The movie runs about 70 minutes and although no longer available for rental in theatrical release or available for rental or purchase in the home videocassette market, plaintiff
There is no evidence that the trailer itself has ever been rented, but Hofheinz has asserted claims based upon its use and settled one several years ago with another television producer.
Conclusions of Law
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a motion for summary judgment may be granted when "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The Second Circuit has repeatedly noted that "as a general rule, all ambiguities and inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts should be resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion, and all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial should be resolved against the moving party." Brady v. Town of Colchester,
For a dispute to be genuine, there must be more than "metaphysical doubt." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
The Inclusion of Brief Clips from "It Conquered the World" in the Peter Graves Biography constitute "Fair Use"
Based upon the standard discussed above, this case qualifies as one which can and should be resolved on summary judgment. Counsel for both sides have argued, as matters of emphasis and judgment, how the Court ought to weigh these facts in assessing the "fair use" exception to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107, but the material facts that bear on the analysis do not allow of dispute. As the court said in Wright v. Warner Books, Inc.,
The Copyright Act permits one, in certain circumstances, to use or appropriate a copyright proprietor's protected expression notwithstanding copyright protection. The concept is embodied in 17 U.S.C. § 107, which states that the "fair use" of a copyrighted work does not infringe the copyright in that work. As the court put it in Maxtone-Graham v. Burtchaell,
Whether a given use is fair is determined on a case-by-case basis within the context of four factors enumerated in § 107. See Harper & Row Publishers v. Nation Enterprises,
17 U.S.C. § 107. Defendants carry the burden of showing that their infringing use was fair. See Coleman v. ESPN, Inc.,
The Purpose and Character of the Use Tips in Favor of A & E
The first statutory factor is the purpose and character of the allegedly infringing use. The focus of this factor is "whether the new work merely supersedes the objects of the original creation ... or instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message; it asks, in other words, whether and to what extent the new work is `transformative.'" Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579, 114 S.Ct. 1164 (citations omitted).
Here, A & E's biography of Peter Graves does not merely purport to supersede the original movie at issue, but to create a new copyrightable film biography. There is a strong presumption that this factor favors the defendant when the allegedly infringing work fits the description described in § 107 of "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching ..., scholarship or research." The Court of Appeals summed up the application of this factor to works of biography: "our cases establish that biographies in general and critical biographies in particular, fit `comfortably within' these statutory categories `of uses illustrative of uses that can be fair.'" New Era Publications Inter., ApS v. Carol Publishing Group,
Moreover, it was the same kind of transformative use recently found in Hofheinz v. AMC Productions Inc.,
Nature of the Copyrighted Work
This is the second fair use factor, where the focus belongs on the nature and copyright status of the plaintiff's work. As a general proposition, published works enjoy less fair use protection than those that have never been published; on the other hand, works that are creative or nonfactual are entitled to greater fair use protection than those that are factual. See New Era Publications, 904 F.2d at 157. Plaintiff's "It Conquered The World," was produced and released in the mid-1950's.
The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used
This factor cuts in defendants' favor. The determinative fact is the amount and substantiality of the material used in relation to the copyrighted work, a quantitative and qualitative test that in this case requires the court to look at the 20 seconds of footage excerpted from the 70 minute "It Conquered The World" and then again at what the 20 seconds consisted of. This constitutes less than 1% of the film, three short snaps not even in the same sequence as they appear in the motion picture. This was trailer footage, impossible to follow as a story line and telling us nothing about the film's plot, characters, themes, or resolution — just snippets of Graves in an alien monster film, people fleeing and Graves hitting a policeman. Reading such decisions as the ones in Wright, supra, 953 F.2d at 738; New Era Publications, 904 F.2d at 158, Monster Communications, supra, 935 F.Supp. at 495, and most recently, Hofheinz, supra, all of which found this third factor weighing heavily in favor of the defendant on similar fractional analyses and common sense qualitative judgments, makes plain that the Peter Graves' biography made a "fair use" of the trailer on this basis as well.
Hofheinz has argued that what was used was the qualitative "essence" of her movie. But quantitative and qualitative takings must not be confused as plaintiff has in her brief citing such cases as Roy Export Co. v. Columbia Broadcasting System,
Effect on the Market
This aspect of the fair use analysis addresses the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work, what the Supreme Court referred to as "undoubtedly the single most important element of fair use." Harper & Row Publishers, 471 U.S. at 566, 105 S.Ct. 2218. The copyrighted work here is plaintiffs film, "It Conquered The World" from which the trailer footage derives. The film had its theatrical run in the mid-1950's, and is today rented for film festivals and special showings. It is not being sold or rented to the public in the videocassette market and though there is a small market for pieces of footage from the film (plaintiff entered into five licenses of this kind over the past seven years),
Hofheinz also contends that there is a market for motion picture excerpts, which is separate from the market for the motion picture itself. The Defendants do not dispute that Hofheinz has licensed clips from several films she owns, nor do they dispute there is a market generally for motion picture clips. But no evidence has been presented that the two April 1997 cablecasts of the Peter Graves biography have any impact on the market for clips of "It Conquered the World."
The proper question is whether the Graves biography was, in effect, a substitute for Hofheinz's film clips. See Wright v. Warner Books, Inc.,
On this point, Hofheinz forwards a corollary argument that the defendants represented to the world that the plaintiffs' clips were in the public domain, and therefore damaged the market. However, the source of the clips is prominently displayed in the biography as the film, "It Conquered the World."
The Graves biography is not a substitute for the film clips and therefore, did not impact the market for the clips. This factor favors A & E as well.
For the reasons stated, A & E's motion for summary judgment is granted.
It is so ordered.
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