Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid

PETITIONER: Community for Creative Non-Violence
LOCATION: Sable Communications of California

DOCKET NO.: 88-293
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 490 US 730 (1989)
ARGUED: Mar 29, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 05, 1989

Joshua Kaufman - Argued the cause for the respondent
Lawrence S. Robbins - Argued the cause for the Register of Copyrights as amicus curiae urging affirmance
Robert Alan Garrett - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

The Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) made an oral agreement with James Reid, a sculptor, to produce a statue depicting the plight of the homeless for display at a 1985 Washington D.C. Christmas pageant. Upon completion, delivery, and joining of the work to a base that it prepared separately, CCNV paid Reid the final installment of the agreed-upon price. Shortly thereafter, the parties filed competing copyright claims over the sculpture. Holding, in accordance with the Copyright Act of 1976 (the "Act"), that the statue was a "work made for hire," a district court ruled in favor of CCNV. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and the Supreme Court granted CCNV certiorari.


Is the making of a sculpture for an organization, by someone who contracts with the organization but is not its employee, a "work made for hire" as defined by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. Section 101?

Media for Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 29, 1989 in Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 88-293, Community for Creative Non-Violence, et al., versus James Earl Reid.

Mr. Garrett.

Robert Alan Garrett:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case, your Honors, involves a dispute over who has the rights, under the 1976 Copyright Act, to authorize reproductions of a statue entitled "Third World America".

The Community for Creative Non-violence, which is a homeless activist organization located here in Washington, originally had Third World America produced in order to serve as a symbol of the cause that they espouse and to help raise national consciousness about the plight of the homeless here in America.

Consistent with that purpose, we would like to be able to disseminate as widely as possible throughout the United States reproductions of Third World America in the form of Christmas cards, posters, and other media, and then to apply whatever revenues are generated by those reproductions to help fund the work that we do with the homeless.

Mr. Reid, however, says that we cannot do so without negotiating his permission.

Mr. Reid claims that he and he alone has the right to authorize reproductions of Third World America and to profit... and to derive any of the profits that are associated with those reproductions.

Now, there's no written agreement in this case between Reid and CCNV.

We basically had a handshake agreement.

CCNV, which depends upon volunteers to perform all of its services, asked Mr. Reid to donate his services to sculpt figures in Third World America.

Mr. Reid agreed to do so, saying that he too was concerned about the homeless.

And believing that all parties here were pursuing a common objective, we then proceeded to pay Mr. Reid $15,000 to cover his expenses, such as the rent on his studio, the various utilities, bills, the cost of his assistants, and the materials.

After the project was completed, after we had paid Mr. Reid the $15,000, and after we had given him the experience that we had of years of dealing with the homeless and our creative direction in sculpting the statue, Mr. Reid told us for the first time that his concerns for the homeless did not extend so far as to relinquishing his claim to what he considers to be the very valuable reproduction rights in Third World America.

Believing that this was inconsistent with the spirit of the arrangement that we had worked out with Mr. Reid to begin with, and believing that any revenues that should be derived from Third World America should go to the benefit of the homeless and not to the benefit of any single individual, we filed this litigation.

The issue before the Court--

Antonin Scalia:

Excuse me.

It goes to some individual, either to Mr. Reid or to your organization.

If your organization chooses to give it to the homeless, that's certainly your organization's business.

You don't assume... you don't assert you're bound to give it to the homeless.

Robert Alan Garrett:

--We will--

Antonin Scalia:

You just assert you're entitled to it.

Robert Alan Garrett:

--We will in fact use it--

Antonin Scalia:

So it really isn't the homeless against Mr. Reid.

It's you against Mr. Reid, as I understand the case.

Robert Alan Garrett:

--We will in fact use the revenues that are derived from this, your Honor, to benefit the homeless, to help fund the various programs that--

Antonin Scalia:

Well, that's nice, but you don't have to.

Robert Alan Garrett:

--That is correct, your Honor.

Antonin Scalia:

And Mr. Reid could come in and say the same thing.

It wouldn't make any difference to the case.