WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT v. X ONE X PRODUCTIONSNo. 10-1743.
644 F.3d 584 (2011)
WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT, INC.; Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Inc.; Turner Entertainment Co., Appellees,
X ONE X PRODUCTIONS, doing business as X One X Movie Archives, Inc.; A.V.E.L.A., Inc., doing business as Art & Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency; Art-Nostalgia.com, Inc.; Leo Valencia, Appellants.
X ONE X PRODUCTIONS, doing business as X One X Movie Archives, Inc.; A.V.E.L.A., Inc., doing business as Art & Vintage Entertainment Licensing Agency; Art-Nostalgia.com, Inc.; Leo Valencia, Appellants.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Submitted: February 24, 2011.
Filed: July 5, 2011.
Douglas D. Winter, argued, Los Angeles, CA, Michael E. Bub, on the brief, St. Louis, MO, for appellant. Sondra Hemeryck, argued, Chicago, IL, Elizabeth C. Carver, St. Louis, MO, Frederick J. Sperling, Chicago, IL, on the brief, for appellee.
Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
A.V.E.L.A., Inc., X One X Productions, and Art-Nostalgia.com, Inc. (collectively, "AVELA") appeal a permanent injunction prohibiting them from licensing certain images extracted from publicity materials for the films Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, as well as several animated short films featuring the cat-and-mouse duo "Tom & Jerry." The district court issued the permanent injunction after granting summary judgment in favor of Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Inc., and Turner Entertainment Co. (collectively, "Warner Bros.") on their claim that the extracted images infringe copyrights for the films. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for appropriate modification of the permanent injunction.
Warner Bros. asserts ownership of registered copyrights to the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ("MGM") films The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Before the films were completed and copyrighted, publicity materials featuring images of the actors in costume posed on the film sets were distributed to theaters and published in newspapers and magazines. The images in these publicity materials were not drawn from the film footage that was used in the films; rather, they were created independently by still photographers and artists before or during production of the films. The publicity materials, such as movie posters, lobby cards, still photographs, and press books, were distributed by the original rights-holder, MGM's parent company Loew's, Inc.,
AVELA has acquired restored versions of the movie posters and lobby cards for The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and several Tom & Jerry short films. From these publicity materials, AVELA has extracted the images of famous characters from the films, including Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz; Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind; and the eponymous Tom and Jerry. AVELA licenses the extracted images for use on items such as shirts, lunch boxes, music box lids, and playing cards, and as models for three-dimensional figurines such as statuettes, busts, figurines inside water globes, and action figures. In many cases, AVELA has modified the images, such as by adding a character's signature phrase from the movie to an image modeled on that character's publicity photograph. In other cases, AVELA has combined images extracted from different items of publicity material into a single product. In one example, a publicity photograph of Dorothy posed with Scarecrow serves as the model for a statuette and another publicity photograph of the "yellow brick road" serves as the model for the base of that same statuette.
Warner Bros. sued AVELA, claiming that such use of the extracted images infringes the copyrights for the films. Warner Bros. also asserted claims of, inter alia, trademark infringement and unfair competition. AVELA contended that the distribution of the publicity materials without copyright notice had injected them into the public domain, thus precluding any restrictions on their use. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to Warner Bros. on the copyright infringement claim and denied summary judgment to both parties on the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims.
The district court's analysis did not require it to determine expressly whether the publicity materials had reached the public domain. Instead, the district court held that, even if the images were extracted from public domain materials, AVELA's practice of modifying the extracted images for placement on retail products constituted infringement of the film copyrights. Warner Bros. averred that it would not assert the copyrights against unaltered reproductions of individual items of publicity material, eliminating any need to resolve whether the publicity materials were in the public domain.
Based on the finding of copyright infringement, the district court separately entered a permanent injunction against all use of the publicity material images, except for exact duplication of individual items of publicity material. AVELA appeals the entry of the permanent injunction.
Although certain claims remain pending in the district court, we have jurisdiction over this appeal of the entry of a permanent injunction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1). Because the propriety of the permanent injunction depends upon the propriety of the underlying grant of summary judgment on the copyright infringement
A. Copyright Ownership
The plaintiff in a copyright infringement claim has the burden to prove ownership of a valid copyright. Taylor Corp. v. Four Seasons Greetings, LLC,
AVELA argues that the district court erred in considering the affidavit and that, absent the challenged affidavit, Warner Bros. did not submit evidence sufficient to prove ownership of the copyrights. In particular, AVELA contends that the documents establishing title were not in the record and that Chilton was not competent to testify about chain of title because her review of the documents did not give her "personal knowledge," as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The version of Rule 56 in effect at the time of the summary judgment motion stated:
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(1) (2010) (superseded Dec. 1, 2010). We review the admission of evidence for consideration at the summary judgment stage for an abuse of discretion. Conseco Life Ins. Co. v. Williams,
While Warner Bros.'s failure to attach the referenced documents to the affidavit was error under the version of Rule 56 in effect at the time, the error was harmless. See Sugarbaker v. SSM Health Care,
In addition, we reject the argument that Chilton was not competent to testify on the matters stated in the affidavit. Chilton's affidavit simply explained how to navigate the array of documents showing that the asserted copyrights were valid and that Warner Bros. had obtained ownership of them. "A lay witness may give an opinion only if it is rationally based on the perception of the witness and would help the factfinder determine a matter in issue." Hurst v. United States,
As a result, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the affidavit. AVELA makes no argument that the documents and affidavit, if admissible, are insufficient to establish chain of title. Therefore, we proceed to determine whether AVELA's use of images from the publicity materials infringes the film copyrights.
B. The Public Domain Nature of the Publicity Materials
Because our analysis differs from that of the district court, we find it necessary to determine whether the publicity materials reached the public domain.
Whether a work entered the public domain prior to January 1, 1978, the effective date of the 1976 Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq., must be determined according to copyright law as it existed before that date, under the 1909 Copyright Act. See Brown v. Tabb,
Warner Bros. concedes that the publicity materials now copied by AVELA were distributed to theaters without the statutorily required notice, but it nevertheless contends that these materials were not injected into the public domain because their distribution was a "limited publication." As distinguished from a "general publication" that results in injection into the public domain, a limited publication is one that occurs "under conditions which exclude the presumption that [the work] was intended to be dedicated to the public." Am. Tobacco Co. v. Werckmeister,
We have held that a publication is general, rather than limited, if the rights-holder demonstrated an express or implied intent to abandon his right to control distribution and reproduction of his work, as determined objectively from "the implications of his outward actions to the reasonable outsider." Nucor Corp. v. Tenn. Forging Steel Serv., Inc.,
Based on the record, any reasonable jury would have to conclude that the "return or destroy" provisions of the National Screen Agreement did not effectively
As an additional matter, publicity material images for the films were distributed directly to the general public through newspapers and magazines. As a leading treatise states:
1-4 Nimmer on Copyright § 4.13[A].
Here, the record includes publicity photographs for The Wizard of Oz that appeared in McCall's magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Chicago Herald and Examiner before the film was released. It also includes publicity photographs for Gone with the Wind that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal, and other published material indicating that Gone with the Wind publicity photographs appeared in several magazines in the United States before the film was released. Obviously, in each case, the rights-holder granted the right of "reproduction, distribution [and] sale" of the subject publicity photographs to each respective newspaper and magazine. White, 193 F.2d at 747. At least one court has held that distribution of promotional photographs to theaters, even under an effective condition that the photographs be returned, is not sufficient to demonstrate a limited publication where the photographs are also distributed for use by newspapers and magazines. See Milton H. Greene Archives, Inc. v. BPI Commc'ns, Inc.,
C. Copyright Infringement and the Right to Make Use of Public Domain Materials
The elements of copyright infringement are (1) ownership of a valid copyright and (2) copying of original elements of the copyrighted work. Taylor, 403 F.3d at 962-63. As discussed above, Warner Bros. has established ownership of valid copyrights in the movies and animated shorts. Copying can be shown either by (1) direct evidence of copying, or (2) access to the copyrighted material and substantial similarity between the AVELA work and the copyrighted work. Id. at 964. There is no dispute that AVELA had access to the films in question, each of which has a long history of popularity.
Warner Bros. does not challenge the products that are exact reproductions of an entire item of publicity material. Instead, Warner Bros. contends that AVELA has extracted images from the public domain materials and used them in new ways that infringe the copyrights in the associated films. AVELA admits that it has used the images in new ways (and indeed has applied for its own copyrights for such derivative works), but it counters that there is no limitation on the public's right to modify or make new works from public domain materials.
AVELA is correct that, as a general proposition, the public is not limited solely to making exact replicas of public domain materials, but rather is free to use public domain materials in new ways (i.e., to make derivative works by adding to and recombining elements of the public domain materials). "[W]here a work has gone into the public domain, it does in fact follow that any individual is entitled to develop this work in new ways." Pannonia Farms, Inc. v. USA Cable, 2004 WL 1276842, at *9 & n. 20 (S.D.N.Y. June 8, 2004) (rejecting the theory that the plaintiff's copyrights in nine original Sherlock Holmes stories gave the plaintiff the exclusive right to make derivative works featuring the Holmes and Dr. Watson characters because fifty-plus earlier stories already had reached the public domain). Nevertheless, this freedom to make new works based on public domain materials ends where the resulting derivative work comes into conflict with a valid copyright.
For example, in Silverman v. CBS Inc.,
In other words, if material related to certain characters is in the public domain, but later works covered by copyright add new aspects to those characters, a
1. The Scope of the Film Copyrights
It is clear that when cartoons or movies are copyrighted, a component of that copyright protection extends to the characters themselves, to the extent that such characters are sufficiently distinctive. See, e.g., Gaiman v. McFarlane,
AVELA correctly points out that the scope of copyright protection for the characters in the films The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind is limited to the increments of character expression in the films that go beyond the character expression in the books on which they were based. See Silverman, 870 F.2d at 49 ("[C]opyrights in derivative works secure protection only for the incremental additions of originality contributed by the authors of the derivative works."). While true, this has little practical effect in the instant case, as a book's description of a character generally anticipates very little of the expression of the character in film:
Gaiman, 360 F.3d at 660-61.
The film actors' portrayals of the characters at issue here appear to rely upon elements of expression far beyond the dialogue and descriptions in the books. AVELA has identified no instance in which the distinctive mannerisms, facial expressions, voice, or speech patterns of a film character are anticipated in the corresponding book by a literary description that evokes, to any significant extent, what the actor portrayed. Put more simply, there is no evidence that one would be able to visualize the distinctive details of, for example, Clark Gable's performance before watching the movie Gone with the Wind, even if one had read the book beforehand. At the very least, the scope of the film copyrights covers all visual depictions of the film characters at issue, except for any aspects of the characters that were injected into the public domain by the publicity materials.
2. The Scope of the Material Dedicated to the Public
AVELA contends that the injection of the publicity materials into the public domain simultaneously injected the film characters themselves into the public domain. To the extent that copyright-eligible aspects of a character are injected into the public domain, the character protection under the corresponding film copyrights must be limited accordingly.
As an initial matter, we reject AVELA's contention that the publicity materials placed the entirety of the film characters at issue into the public domain. The isolated still images included in the publicity materials cannot anticipate the full range of distinctive speech, movement, demeanor, and other personality traits that combine to establish a copyrightable character. See, e.g., Gaiman, 360 F.3d at 660 (holding that the character's "age, obviously phony title (`Count'), what he knows and says, [and] his name" combine with his visual appearance "to create a distinctive character"); Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 900 F.Supp. at 1296 (citing "various character traits that are specific to Bond—i.e. his cold-bloodedness; his overt sexuality; his love of martinis `shaken, not stirred;' his marksmanship; his `license to kill' and use of guns; his physical strength; [and] his sophistication," rather than his visual appearance alone, as establishing the copyrightability of the character); cf. Walker v. Viacom Int'l, Inc., 2008 WL 2050964, at *5-6 (N.D.Cal. May 13, 2008) (holding that a copyrighted cartoon consisting of "four small and largely uninformative black and white panels" that conveyed "little to no information about [the character's] personality or character traits" was insufficient to establish copyright protection of the character). Nevertheless, the publicity materials could have placed some aspects of each character's visual appearance into the public domain.
A situation somewhat similar to the one we face was presented in Siegel v. Warner Bros. Entm't Inc.,
Id. (emphasis added). As a result, the scope of the promotional announcements encompassed only the limited character of "a person with extraordinary strength who wears a black and white leotard and cape." Id. Despite the earlier publication of the promotional announcements, the copyright in the later comic book nevertheless encompassed the fully developed character with "Superman's distinctive blue leotard (complete with its inverted triangular crest across the chest with a red `S' on a yellow background), a red cape and boots, and his superhuman ability to leap tall buildings, repel bullets, and run faster than a locomotive, none of which is apparent from the announcement." Id. Importantly, the scope of the character copyrighted through the promotional announcements was viewed on the strict basis of what was clearly visible in the announcements, not through the additional perspective of the later, more developed work.
In the instant case, the only "copyrightable elements" in the publicity materials (albeit injected into the public domain, rather than registered for copyright) are even more limited than in Siegel. While the promotional announcements in Siegel at least showed proto-Superman holding a car over his head, establishing a distinguishing characteristic of "extraordinary strength," the publicity materials here reveal nothing of each film character's signature traits or mannerisms. At most, the publicity materials could have injected some of the purely visual characteristics of each film character into the public domain, akin to the character in "a black and white leotard and cape." Id.
Because we must rely solely on visual characteristics, the individuals shown in the publicity materials establish "characters" for copyright purposes only if they display "consistent, widely identifiable" visual characteristics. See Rice, 330 F.3d at 1175. The Walker case is instructive in this regard. There, the plaintiff asserted his copyright in a comic strip entitled "Mr. Bob Spongee, The Unemployed Sponge" against the producers of the animated television series "SpongeBob SquarePants." 2008 WL 2050964 at *1. The plaintiff had created sponge dolls based on his comic strip and placed advertisements in a newspaper. Id. Because these materials revealed "little to no information about Mr. Bob Spongee's personality or character traits," id. at *5, the court could look only to his visual appearance for distinctiveness. The court held that in such a situation, a consistent visual appearance throughout the materials was a prerequisite for character protection. See id. at *5-6. Because of variations in the sponge's clothing, color, eye and nose shape, and hair among the comic strip, dolls, and advertisements, the plaintiff's copyright did not create any character protection. Id. at *6.
With respect to the cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, we note that on the spectrum of character copyrightability, the category of cartoon characters often is cited as the paradigm of distinctiveness. See, e.g., Warner Bros., Inc. v. Am. Broad. Cos.,
Meanwhile, the copyrighted short film that immediately followed the first poster revealed Tom and Jerry's character traits and signature antagonistic relationship. With the benefit of these strong character traits, the first short film was sufficient to establish the copyrightable elements of the Tom and Jerry characters as depicted therein. See ante at 597-98. In such a situation, each subsequent movie poster could inject into the public domain only the increments of expression, if any, that the movie poster itself added to the already-copyrighted characters from previously released Tom & Jerry films. See Russell v. Price,
In contrast to Tom & Jerry, the record is clear that a veritable blitz of publicity materials for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz was distributed prior to the publication of each film. However, with respect to Gone with the Wind, the publicity material images are far from the cartoon-character end of the spectrum of character copyrightability. There is nothing consistent and distinctive about the publicity material images of Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. They certainly lack any cartoonishly unique physical attributes, and neither one is shown in a consistent, unique outfit and hairstyle. See Walker, 2008 WL 2050964 at *6; cf. Siegel, 542 F.Supp.2d at 1126 (finding "a black and
The characters in The Wizard of Oz lie closer to the cartoon-character end of the spectrum. There are many stylized aspects to the visual appearances of Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion, and they perhaps might be considered as live-action representations of cartoon characters. Dorothy, while not so thoroughly stylized, wears a somewhat distinctive costume and hairstyle. However, a close examination of the record reveals that these potentially distinctive visual features do not appear in a consistent fashion throughout the publicity materials. For example, in the publicity materials, Judy Garland as Dorothy sometimes wears a red dress and bow and black slippers, rather than the distinctive blue dress and bow and ruby slippers of the film, and her hairstyle also varies. From image to image, Scarecrow's costume color ranges from yellow to blue to black, Cowardly Lion's from light yellow to very dark brown, and Tin Man's from shiny silver to a dull blue-gray.
Gaiman, 360 F.3d at 660. While the overly broad characters would be in the public domain rather than copyrighted in the instant case, the analysis of the copyrightability of a character must be the same in either case. See Silverman, 870 F.2d at 50.
3. AVELA's Use of the Public Domain Images
We held above that no visual aspects of the film characters in Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz are in the public domain, apart from the images in the publicity materials themselves. Therefore, any visual representation that is recognizable as a copyrightable character from one of these films, other than a faithful copy of a public domain image, has copied "original elements" from the corresponding film. See Taylor, 403 F.3d at 962-63. We must examine the AVELA products based on The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind to determine which ones display "increments of expression," Silverman, 870 F.2d at 50, of the film characters beyond the "pictures of the actors in costume" in the publicity materials. The AVELA products in the record can be analyzed in three categories.
The first category comprises AVELA products that each reproduce one image from an item of publicity material as an identical two-dimensional image. While Warner Bros. does not challenge the reproduction of movie "posters as posters (or lobby cards as lobby cards)," it does challenge the reproduction of a single image drawn from a movie poster or lobby card on T-shirts, lunch boxes, music box lids, or playing cards, for example. We read the district court's permanent injunction to follow Warner Bros.'s distinction, forbidding all uses except the reproduction of items of publicity material "in their entirety." However, no reasonable jury could find that merely printing a public domain image on a new type of surface (such as a T-shirt or playing card), instead of the original surface (movie poster paper or lobby card paper), adds an increment of expression of the film character to the image.
The second category comprises AVELA products that each juxtapose an image extracted from an item of publicity material with another image extracted from elsewhere in the publicity materials, or with a printed phrase from the book underlying the subject film, to create a new composite work. Even if we assume that each composite work is composed entirely of faithful extracts from public domain materials, the new arrangement of the extracts in the composite work is a
The third category comprises AVELA products that each extend an image extracted from an item of publicity material into three dimensions (such as statuettes inside water globes, figurines, action figures, and busts). Many of these products also include a juxtaposition of multiple extracts from the public domain materials, and such composite works infringe for the reasons explained in the preceding paragraph. Even where the product extends a single two-dimensional public domain image into three dimensions, a three-dimensional rendering must add new visual details regarding depth to the underlying two-dimensional image. (As a simple illustration, it is impossible to determine the length of someone's nose from a picture if they are looking directly at the camera.) Of course, even more visual details must be added if the two-dimensional image is transformed into a fully realized figure, as most three-dimensional AVELA products are. (Otherwise, for example, the back of each figurine character would be blank.) Much of this visual information is available in the feature-length films, where the characters are observable from a multitude of viewing angles.
In depositions, the AVELA licensees who developed the action figures, figurines, water globes, and busts made no pretense that they were not guided by their knowledge of the films. Instead, they indicated that, while each three-dimensional
We also held above that the characters of Tom and Jerry are not in the public domain. In addition, because the characters achieved copyright protection through the short films before all but the first movie poster entered the public domain, and the later movie posters necessarily exhibit those characters, even the use of any movie poster but the first requires Warner Bros.'s authorization. See Russell, 612 F.2d at 1128 ("Therefore, since exhibition of the film `Pygmalion' necessarily involves exhibition of parts of Shaw's play, which is still copyrighted, plaintiffs here may prevent defendants from renting the film for exhibition without their authorization."). Warner Bros. has granted such authorization to the extent it has averred that it will not challenge the reproduction of movie "posters as posters (or lobby cards as lobby cards)."
Therefore, AVELA may use the first Tom & Jerry poster, for the short film Puss Gets the Boot, in the fashion described above for the publicity materials for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Accordingly, with respect to Tom & Jerry products based on the first publicity poster, we modify the district court's grant of summary judgment and the permanent injunction to be consistent with the three categories of products described above for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. With respect to all later Tom & Jerry posters, AVELA is authorized to make faithful reproductions, but not to reproduce those movie poster images on other products or to make derivative works based on Tom and Jerry. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to Warner Bros. and the permanent injunction crafted by the district court with respect to all other Tom & Jerry products.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm in large part the district court's grant of summary judgment to Warner Bros. on the issue of copyright infringement and the resulting permanent injunction. We reverse with respect to one category of AVELA products, and we vacate in corresponding part the permanent injunction entered by the district court. We remand for modification of the permanent injunction and further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
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