Lee v. A.R.T. Company
125 F.3d 580 (7th Cir. 1997)
Lee was an artist who owned
the copyright to her paintings. She authorized postcards to be made of
her work, which were then sold in stores.
ART legitimately bought copies
of Lee's postcards and glued the individual pages onto ceramic tiles,
which they sold. Lee sued for copyright infringement.
Lee argued that she had the
right to control the distribution
of her copyrighted work, and that had never authorized ART to make
ART argued that they had
legitimately purchased the postcards and therefore had the right to do
anything they wanted with them, including ripping them apart, gluing the
pages to ceramic tiles and selling them.
The Trial Court found to ART.
The Trial Court found that
Lee retained the right to authorize derivative works under 17 U.S.C. §106(2).
However, since ART had not altered the work in anyway, they could not
theoretically claim a copyright on what they had done. Therefore no derivative
work had been created.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court noted
that 17 U.S.C. §109(a) (aka the first
sale doctrine), gives someone who buys a work the right it or
lend it or do anything they want with it, in general.
The Court found that Lee had
not suffered any economic loss because she had already "captured the
value" of the original sale of the postcard.
Any subsequent alterations
that consume or destroy the postcard lack economic significance.
The Court found that
mounting the artwork on a ceramic tile wasn't an alteration that resulted in a derivative work. It was more like putting a painting in a
frame. And you wouldn't say that someone who buys a painting is
violating a copyright by putting it into a frame of their choosing.
Since the work wasn't
recast, transformed, adapted, or altered, it couldn't be considered a derivative
work, so §106(2) did
Contrast this decision with Mirage
Editions, Inc. v. Albuquerque A.R.T. Company (856 F.2d 1341 (9th Cir. 1988)), which came to the exact opposite