Gregory Poe v. Missing Persons, Dale Bozzio, Steven Brooks, Capitol Records, Inc., Capitol Industries-EMI Inc.

745 F.2d 1238 (1984)

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Gregory Poe v. Missing Persons, Dale Bozzio, Steven Brooks, Capitol Records, Inc., Capitol Industries-EMI Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
745 F.2d 1238 (1984)

  • Written by Jody Stuart, JD

Facts

Gregory Poe (plaintiff), an artist and fashion designer, created an item called Aquatint No. 5 (Aquatint), which looked like a bikini swimsuit made from flexible plastic. Poe allowed a photographer to take pictures of a woman wearing Aquatint for the photographer’s portfolio. Without Poe’s consent, the music group Missing Persons, Dale Bozzio, Steven Brooks, Capitol Records, Inc., and Capitol Industries-EMI Inc. (collectively, the music-industry associates) (defendants) used one of these photos on an album cover. Poe applied for copyright registration of Aquatint as a sculptural work of art, but the registration was denied. Poe then filed a claim of copyright infringement in federal district court. In the claim, Poe asserted that Aquatint was a work of art. Subsequently, the music-industry associates filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing there were no material facts at issue because Aquatint was a swimsuit. The music-industry associates did not provide evidence supporting this argument. In a declaration opposing the motion for summary judgment, Poe described Aquatint as conceptual art, an artist’s portrayal of an article of clothing. The music-industry associates submitted one piece of testimonial evidence regarding the nature of Aquatint: Poe’s deposition testimony that Aquatint was a piece of visual art. The district court determined that Aquatint was a swimsuit, that the functional elements of the swimsuit could not be separated from the artistic elements, and that Aquatint could not be copyrighted. The district court granted summary judgment. Poe appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Alarcon, J.)

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