Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Circuit: Ownership of a Copyright in a Television Show Governed By Work For Hire Agreement Confirming Earlier Oral Agreement

In TMTV Corp. v. Mass Productions Inc., ---F.3d---, 2011 WL 2306514 (1st Cir. 2011), the First Circuit considered two competing Puerto Rican television shows 20 Pisos and El Condominio (more on Wikipedia here). As in so many of these stories, the initial brainstorming sessions were not set down in writing, later-produced scripts were the result of the amorphous brainstorming session, and in the end, all claimed copyright.

Here, one purported author supplied ideas at the brainstorming session. He lost because of copyright law's requirement of "fixation" - that is, that in order to have a copyright, the ideas must be written down.

Other authors wrote scripts based on the brainstorming session. Those authors, however, did not dispute that they'd agreed to write the scripts as works-for-hire. Later, the authors were paid and executed agreements stating that the scripts were works for hire.

For students of civil procedure and how it relates to the Copyright Act, the decision is instructive on the issues of settlements, damages, and pre- and post- judgment interest. The Hon. David H. Souter (Ret.) of the Supreme Court of the United States sat by designation.

Decision below.

TMTV Corp v Mass Productions (1st Cir. Puerto Rico June 13 2011)

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