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Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corporation

45 F.2d 119 (1930), cert. denied 282 U.S. 902 (1931)

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Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corporation

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

45 F.2d 119 (1930), cert. denied 282 U.S. 902 (1931)

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Facts

Anne Nichols (plaintiff) wrote a play called “Abie’s Irish Rose.” The play was about an Irish Catholic father and a Jewish father whose children married each other in secret because the fathers would not have approved. The underlying theme of the play was the fathers’ discontent for each other and for the relationship of their children. The fathers’ animosity was based on their religious differences. Eventually, the children had their own child and as a result, the fathers reconciled. Subsequently, Universal Pictures Corporation (Universal) (defendant) made a movie called “The Cohens and the Kellys.” The movie was also based on an Irish Catholic and a Jewish family whose children wed. The fathers similarly did not get along, but not due to their differing religions, more on account of the general animosity of the Jewish father. Also similarly, the children had their own child, and the fathers eventually reconciled. However, in The Cohens and the Kellys, the grandchild had little to do with the reconciliation. The main themes throughout The Cohens and the Kellys were family finances and the relationship between wealth and generosity. Religion did not play a role. Nichols brought suit for copyright infringement. The district court found in favor of Universal. Nichols appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hand, J.)

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