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 infringement.
    • Mirage argued that they had the right to control the distribution of their copyrighted work, and that they had never authorized ART to make ceramic tiles.
    • 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 work.
  • 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 infringement.
    • 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.