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Frank Music Corp. v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

772 F.2d 505 (1985)

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Frank Music Corp. v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

772 F.2d 505 (1985)

Facts

In the 1950s, Edwin Lester (plaintiff) acquired the right to produce a musical version of a dramatic play from the 1910s, Kismet. Luther Davis, Charles Lederer, Robert Wright, and George Forrest (the writers) (plaintiffs) wrote the musical version, of which Frank Music Corporation (Frank) (plaintiff) obtained copyright ownership. A film version was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. (MGM) (defendant). In 1967 the original (nonmusical) version of Kismet fell into the public domain. In 1974 a nostalgic musical revue, Hallelujah Hollywood, staged highlights from past MGM productions—including Kismet, with several minutes taken directly from the writers’ musical play—at the MGM Grand Hotel. A license from the American Society of Composters, Artists and Producers (ASCAP) granted the venue the right to publicly perform copyrighted works, but it excluded the performance of works accompanied by visual representations. Lester, Frank, and the writers brought suit. MGM argued that the visual accompaniment was based on the original, public-domain version of Kismet. The district court found in favor of Lester, Frank, and the writers, but it declined to award actual damages, awarding instead a share of MGM’s profits. MGM appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fletcher, J.)

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