Stewart v. Abend

PETITIONER: Stewart
RESPONDENT: Abend
LOCATION: Congress

DOCKET NO.: 88-2102
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 495 US 207 (1990)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1990
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Louis P. Petrich - on behalf of the Petitioners
Peter J. Anderson - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Stewart v. Abend

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 09, 1990 in Stewart v. Abend

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 24, 1990 in Stewart v. Abend

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 88-2102, Stewart against Abend will be announced by Justice O’Connor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

This case comes to the Court on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

It raises an issue of copyright law.

The author of a preexisting work may assign to another the right to use the preexisting work in a derivative work.

In this case, the author of a preexisting work, a story, agreed to the production of a derivative work and agreed to assign the rights and the renewal term of the preexisting work to the petitioner.

The petitioner then incorporated the preexisting work into a derivative work a movie called "Rear Window".

The author of the preexisting work however died before the commencement of the renewal period.

This case requires us to decide whether the owner of the derivative work infringe the rights of the successor owner of the preexisting work by the continued distribution and publication of the derivative work during the renewal term of the preexisting work.

We must also decide whether the derivative work owner’s use of the preexisting work constitutes a fair use as that term is used in the copyright law.

In an opinion filed today, we hold that the owner of the derivative work infringes the rights of the successor owner of the preexisting work by distribution and publication of the work during the renewal term where the successor owner has not granted permission for use of the work during the renewal term.

Our decision follows our previous decision in Miller Music Corporation against Daniels.

We also hold that petitioner’s use of the preexisting work does not constitute a fair use of the work.

The judgment of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is, therefore, affirmed.

Justice White has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment; Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion which Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Scalia have joined.