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Atlas Film + AV GmbH & Co. Verleih u. Vertrieb v. Janus Film u. Fernsehen Vertriebgesellschaft mbH

I ZR 97/76, 10 International Review of Industrial Property and Copyright Law 358 (1979)

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Atlas Film + AV GmbH & Co. Verleih u. Vertrieb v. Janus Film u. Fernsehen Vertriebgesellschaft mbH

German Federal Supreme Court

I ZR 97/76, 10 International Review of Industrial Property and Copyright Law 358 (1979)

Facts

On September 18, 1970, Raymond Rohauer purchased the rights to the films of Buster Keaton from the trustee of Buster Keaton Production Inc. Janus Film (Janus) (plaintiff) acquired an exclusive license from Rohauer in 1972 that allowed it to use the Buster Keaton films in the Federal Republic of Germany and other German-speaking countries until December 31, 1979. Atlas Film (Atlas) (defendant) had previously been licensed to exploit the Buster Keaton films. Atlas claimed that it was permitted to continue to use the films despite the license being obtained by Janus because the films were no longer under copyright in the Federal Republic of Germany. The films in question had been created by Buster Keaton in the United States between 1921 and 1928 and were in the public domain in the United States. Janus sued Atlas, arguing that the films in question were still under copyright in the Federal Republic of Germany. Atlas maintained that under the provisions of the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC), the films were no longer under copyright. The court dismissed Janus’s complaint, and Janus appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning

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