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Goodis v. United Artists Television, Inc.

425 F.2d 397 (1970)

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Goodis v. United Artists Television, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

425 F.2d 397 (1970)

Facts

David Goodis (plaintiff) wrote the popular novel Dark Passage. Prior to the novel’s 1946 publication in book form, Goodis sold the exclusive movie rights to Warner Brothers. Goodis also sold Curtis Publishing Company (Curtis) the right to publish the novel in serialized installments in the Saturday Evening Post. Each issue of the magazine containing an installment of Dark Passage included a copyright notice in the magazine’s name. In 1956 Warner Brothers assigned its rights in the property to United Artists (UA). UA’s television division, United Artists Television, Inc. (defendant), produced a series called The Fugitive. In 1965 Goodis brought suit against UA in federal district court, alleging that the television series infringed Dark Passage. UA countered that the television series was covered by the contractual assignment of rights. The court granted summary judgment in favor of UA, holding that Curtis had been a mere licensee whose rights in Dark Passage expired with the publication of each installment. In the court’s reasoning, this placed the novel in the public domain. Goodis died in 1967. His executors (plaintiffs) appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lumbard, C.J.)

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