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Rohauer v. Killiam Shows, Inc.

551 F.2d 484 (1977)

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Rohauer v. Killiam Shows, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

551 F.2d 484 (1977)

Facts

In 1925, Edith Maude Hull (Hull) wrote a novel, The Sons of the Sheik, that was published and registered for a copyright in the US. By contract, Hull assigned all motion-picture rights in the novel to Joseph H. Moskowitz. Hull also agreed to renew the novel’s copyright upon its expiration and then again assign the motion-picture rights to Moskowitz for the renewal term. In 1926, a motion picture based on the novel was released and was registered for a copyright. In 1954, the motion picture’s copyright was renewed and was ultimately assigned to Killiam Shows, Incorporated (Killiam) (defendant) in 1968. Hull died in 1943, and the copyright on her novel was renewed by Hull’s daughter, Cecil Hull (plaintiff). In 1965, Cecil assigned all of her rights in the copyright—including any motion-picture rights—to Raymond Rohauer (plaintiff). In 1971, Educational Broadcasting Corporation (Broadcasting) (defendant) showed the motion picture on its television station based on a print of the motion picture that had been provided by Killiam without any license or permission from Rohauer or Cecil. Rohauer filed suit for copyright infringement in district court, alleging that Killiam’s and Broadcasting’s rights had been terminated upon the expiration and renewal of the novel’s copyright. Killiam and Broadcasting conceded that no new motion picture could be produced based on the original assignment from Hull to Moskowitz, but they argued that they were entitled to renew the copyright on the motion picture that had already been produced and permit the original motion picture’s exhibition. The district court ruled in Rohauer’s favor, and Killiam and Broadcasting appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Friendly, J.)

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