Mirage Editions, Inc. v. Albuquerque A.R.T. Company
856 F.2d 1341 (9th Cir. 1988)
Mirage was a book publisher
that made books containing reproductions of famous artwork. ART
legitimately bought copies of Mirages' books, cut them up, and glued the
individual pages onto ceramic tiles, which they sold. Mirage sued for copyright
Mirage argued that they had
the right to control the distribution
of their copyrighted work, and that they had never authorized ART to make
ART argued that they had
legitimately purchased Mirage's books 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 for
Mirage. ART appealed.
The Trial Court found that
ART had infringed on Mirage's copyrights by preparing a derivative
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 book the right it or
lend it or do anything they want with it, in general.
So if ART was buying
Mirage's books and then selling them in a bookstore, there would be no copyright
However, the Court found
that §109(a) did not give someone
the right to "recast, transform, or adapt" a work.
The right to prepare
derivative works remains with the
original copyright holder.
The Court found that ripping
the book apart and turning it into ceramic tiles was enough of an
alteration to constitute a derivative work, and therefore it was copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. §106(2).
Contrast this decision with Lee
v. A.R.T. Company (125 F.3d 580 (7th
Cir. 1997)), which came to the exact opposite conclusion.