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Gilliam v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
538 F.2d 14 (1976)


Monty Python (plaintiff) was a group of British writers and entertainers that collectively produced a television show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, aired by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Under an agreement with Monty Python, BBC was only allowed to make minor changes to episode scripts and was not authorized to make any alterations to a program once the program had been recorded. In July 1975, the American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (ABC) (defendant) obtained the rights to broadcast two 90-minute Monty Python specials in the United States. Each special consisted of 33-minute episodes filmed from scripts written by Monty Python. Prior to airing, Monty Python was assured that the two specials would be shown in their entirety, even after the group voiced concerns over the impossibility of such a feat if a portion of the airing time was reserved for commercials. The first program aired in October 1975, and 24 of the original 90 minutes were omitted to accommodate commercials and censor material deemed offensive to American audiences. Monty Python was outraged by the truncated version that ultimately aired and brought a suit to enjoin ABC from airing the second special. After weighing the potential damage to both sides, the district court denied the preliminary injunction, citing a lack of certainty as to which party owned the copyright in the underlying television programs. Monty Python appealed the decision.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lumbard, J.)

Concurrence (Gurfein, J.)

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