Twentieth Century Music Corporation v. Aiken

PETITIONER: Twentieth Century Music Corporation
LOCATION: Chicago, Illinois

DOCKET NO.: 74-452
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 422 US 151 (1975)
ARGUED: Apr 21, 1975
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1975

Harold David Cohen - for respondent
Simion H. Rifkind -
Simon H. Rifkind - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Twentieth Century Music Corporation v. Aiken

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 1975 in Twentieth Century Music Corporation v. Aiken

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 17, 1975 in Twentieth Century Music Corporation v. Aiken

Potter Stewart:

In the second case that I am authorized to announce today, No. 74-452, Twentieth Century Music Corporation and others, against George Aiken.

We have a case that's here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The respondent George Aiken owns and operates a small fast-service food shop in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, known as "George Aiken's Chicken."

A radio with outlets to four speakers in the ceiling receives broadcasts of music and other normal radio programming at this small restaurant.

Aiken usually turns on the radio each morning at the start of business.

Music, news, entertainment, and commercial advertising broadcast by radio stations are thus heard by Aiken, his employees, and his customers during the hours that the establishment is open for business.

In March -- on March 11, 1972, broadcasts of two copyrighted musical compositions were received on the radio from a local station while several customers were in Aiken's establishment.

The petitioner Twentieth Century Music Corporation owns the copyright on one of these songs and the petitioner Mary Bourne the copyright on the other.

Both the petitioners are members of ASCAP, which is an association that licenses the performing rights of its members to their copyrighted works.

The station that broadcast the petitioners' songs was licensed by ASCAP to broadcast them.

Aiken, on the other hand did not hold a license from ASCAP.

The petitioners sued Aiken in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to recover for copyright infringement.

Their complaint alleged that the radio reception in Aiken's restaurant of the licensed broadcasts infringed their exclusive rights to "perform" their copyrighted works in public for profit.

The District Judge agreed, and granted the plaintiffs statutory monetary awards for each infringement.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed that judgment, holding that the petitioners' claims against the respondent were -- were foreclosed by this Court's decisions in two recent cases, the Fortnightly case reported in Volume 392 of the United States reports and the Teleprompter case reported in Volume 415 of those reports.

For the reason set out in a written opinion filed with the clerk, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed an opinion concurring on the result and the Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion which Mr. Justice Douglas has joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.