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Dowling v. United States

473 U.S. 207 (1985)

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Dowling v. United States

United States Supreme Court

473 U.S. 207 (1985)

Facts

Paul Edmond Dowling and William Samuel Theaker (defendants) manufactured bootleg albums of unreleased Elvis Presley recordings. Dowling resided in Baltimore and handled the artistic end of the operation by selecting musical materials and designing the covers and labels of the albums. Meanwhile, Theaker resided in Los Angeles and handled the business end of the operation by arranging for the record pressings, distributing catalogues, and collecting customers’ orders. Theaker shipped large quantities of the albums along with customers’ orders to Dowling in Baltimore, who in turn filled the orders. Dowling and Theaker also had occasion to ship large quantities of the albums to an associate in Miami, who resold the albums through his own channels. The bootleg entrepreneurs never obtained authorization from or paid royalties to the owners of the copyrights in the music. Following a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Dowling and Theaker were convicted of eight counts of interstate transportation of stolen property in violation of § 2314 of the National Stolen Property Act, among other violations. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the rights of copyright owners in their protected property was indistinguishable from ownership interest in other types of property and were equally deserving of protection under the statute. Dowling and Theaker appealed the conviction.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

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