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Classic Media v. Mewborn

532 F.3d 978 (2008)

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Classic Media v. Mewborn

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

532 F.3d 978 (2008)

Facts

Eric Knight wrote and copyrighted the popular children’s book Lassie Come Home as a magazine series in 1938 and as a novel in 1940. Knight granted motion-picture and television rights to Lassie Television, Inc. (LTI). Knight died before the copyright-renewal rights had vested. The renewal interests reverted to Knight’s widow, Ruth, and their three daughters, Jennie Knight Moore, Betty Knight Myers, and Winifred Knight Mewborn (defendant). LTI obtained an assignment of motion-picture and television rights from each of the heirs. Mewborn’s assignment, executed in 1976, covered movies, television, and radio. A second agreement, executed in 1978, amended the assignment to include various ancillary rights such as merchandising and commercial rights. In 1996 Mewborn served LTI’s successor in interest, Palladium Limited Partnership, with a notice of termination of the 1976 assignment, effective in 1998. Palladium’s successor, Classic Media, Inc. (plaintiff) later filed for declaratory relief in federal district court. Mewborn counterclaimed for the same. Both sides moved for summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment in favor of Classic Media, holding that Mewborn’s 1978 assignment covered all her remaining rights, including her right to terminate the 1976 assignment. The 1978 assignment did not mention termination rights. Mewborn appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wardlaw, J.)

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