Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc.

392 U.S. 390, 88 S. Ct. 2084 (1968)

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Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
392 U.S. 390, 88 S. Ct. 2084 (1968)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Fortnightly Corporation (FC) (defendant) operated a community-antenna television (CATV) system in West Virginia. CATV functions by receiving, amplifying, modifying, and converting broadcast television signals received by the community antenna and then transmitting the broadcast signal to customers’ television sets for simultaneous viewing. As a CATV provider, FC did not edit the programs it transmitted and did not broadcast any programming of its own. The area in which FC operated was incredibly hilly, and the terrain prevented residents from receiving most television broadcast signals through ordinary rooftop antennas. Accordingly, most local residents received their television signals through FC’s CATV service. United Artists Television, Inc. (UAT) (plaintiff), which owned copyrights to some of the programs transmitted through FC’s CATV system, sued FC for copyright infringement, arguing that FC was broadcasting, and thereby publicly performing, UAT’s copyrighted works for profit without a license. FC countered, arguing that a CATV transmission did not constitute a public performance. The district court ruled for UAT, holding that FC had infringed on UAT’s exclusive right of public performance. On appeal, the Second Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

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