Castle Rock Entertainment, Inc. v. Carol Publishing Group, Inc.
150 F.3d 132 (2d Cir. 1998)

  • Castle Rock made a popular tv show called Seinfeld. Carol published a book of containing trivia questions and answers related to the tv show.
    • The book referenced specific episodes, characters, and events of the show, and directly copied lines of dialogue.
  • Castle Rock sued for copyright infringement.
    • Castle Rock argued that the book was a derivative work, and that only the copyright holder has the right to authorize a derivative work.
      • See 17 U.S.C. 106(2).
    • Carol argued that Castle Rock owned the copyright on a tv show, not a trivia book. Carol argued that the format of the book was so different than the show, and that the book contained original research and expression, therefore there was no substantial similarity between the two works.
      • Basically, Carol argued that under the total concept and feel test the two works were not substantially similar because they had totally different themes, sequence, pace, etc.
  • The Trial Court found for Castle Rock. Carol appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that since the characters and events referenced in the book "spring from the imagination of Seinfeld's authors" the book plainly copied copyrightable creative expression. Therefore there was substantial similarity between the book and the tv show.
      • In addition, the Court found that an ordinary observer would find that book and tv show were substantially similar, and that even under the total concept and feel test, there was still substantial similarity.
    • Carol argued that their book was not infringement because it was covered by the fair use exemption (35 U.S.C. 107). However the Court found that it was not, based on a four-factor test for determining if something counts as fair use:
      • Commercial or non-commercial use.
        • The Court found that Carol's book was commercial, and not criticism, commentary, or parody of the original.
      • The nature of the copyrighted work.
        • The Court found that fictional works, like Seinfeld have greater protection than non-fictional works.
      • The amount of the original work used.
        • The Court found that Carol's book copied the original more than necessary to "further the purpose and character of the use."
      • The effect on the potential market.
        • The Court found that even though Castle Rock did not produce a Seinfeld trivia book, their copyright gave them the exclusive right to distribution, and Carol's book infringed that right by reducing the potential for Castle Rock to market their work.