Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

PETITIONER: Campbell
RESPONDENT: Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.
LOCATION: Arkansas General Assembly

DOCKET NO.: 92-1292
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1993-1994)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 510 US 569 (1994)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1993
DECIDED: Mar 07, 1994

ADVOCATES:
Bruce S. Rogow - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Sidney S. Rosdeitcher - Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. sued 2 Live Crew and their record company, claiming that 2 Live Crew's song "Pretty Woman" infringed Acuff-Rose's copyright in Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman." The District Court granted summary judgment for 2 Live Crew, holding that its song was a parody that made fair use of the original song. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that the commercial nature of the parody rendered it presumptively unfair.

Question

May 2 Live Crew's commercial parody of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" be a fair use within the meaning of the Copyright Act of 1976?

Media for Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1993 in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 07, 1994 in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No.92-1292, Luther B. Campbell versus Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

In 1964 the respondent, Acuff-Rose, obtained the rights to a rock ballad called "Oh Pretty Woman".

Petitioners Luther Campbell and others are collectively known as 2 Live Crew, a rap music group.

In 1989, Campbell wrote a song entitled "Pretty Woman" which he described is intended through comical lyrics to satirize the original song written 25 years earlier.

2 Live Crew sought permission to use the original song and offered payment, but Acuff-Rose said no.

Nonetheless, 2 Live Crew released records, cassette tapes, and compact discs of Pretty Woman in a collection of songs entitled "As Clean as They Wanna Be".

When Acuff-Rose sued 2 Live Crew and its record company for copyright infringement, 2 Live Crew raised the defense of fair use within the meaning of the Copyright Act.

The District Court granted summary judgment for 2 Live Crew reasoning that 2 Live Crew's song was a parody that made fair use of the original.

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed.

It concerted among other things, that the blatantly commercial purpose of the parody prevented it from being a fair use.

We granted certiorari to determine whether 2 Live Crew's commercial parody could be a fair use.

As explained in an opinion authored by Justice Souter, we now reverse and remand.

A parody like other commented criticism may claim to be fair use, and the Court of Appeals erred in placing virtually dispositive weight on the commercial nature of the parody.

A parody's commercial character is only one element to be weighed in a fair use inquiry.

The heart of any parodist's claim to quote from existing material is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that at least in part comments on that author's work, as 2 Live Crew's song reasonably could be perceived as doing here.

And so, the Court of Appeals we hold is wrong in directing the entry of judgment for the copyright holder.

There are factual issues regarding excessive copying and market substitution which are still to be resolved and to be addressed on remand.

The opinion is unanimous.

Justice Kennedy has filed a concurring opinion.