Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences v. Creative House Promotions, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
944 F.2d 1446 (1991)
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy) (plaintiff) held an annual televised awards ceremony to give away Oscar trophies to the top performing artists of the year. The Oscar was a gold trophy of a muscular man holding a sword. The Academy prohibited winners from selling their trophies to the public and limited winners’ advertisements of the Oscar trophies. In 1941 the Academy registered the Oscar trophy as a copyrighted work with the United States Copyright Office, but the Academy had awarded 158 Oscars before the copyright registration was filed. The 158 distributed Oscars did not contain a copyright notice, although all later-distributed Oscars did. In 1976 Creative House Promotions, Inc. (Creative) (defendant) created and sold an almost-identical trophy that was shorter and displayed a star instead of a sword. The Academy sued Creative in federal district court for copyright infringement, and the district court held that the Oscar was not entitled to copyright protection because a general publication of the Oscar had been made by giving it away to 158 recipients. The Academy appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Pregerson, J.)
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