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Shoptalk, Ltd. v. Concorde-New Horizons Corp.

168 F.3d 586 (1999)

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Shoptalk, Ltd. v. Concorde-New Horizons Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

168 F.3d 586 (1999)

Facts

In 1960, The Little Shop of Horrors, a screenplay written by Charles Byron Griffith, was used with Griffith’s consent for the production of a motion picture. The screenplay was registered for copyright in 1982 as an unpublished work under the Copyright Act of 1909. In 1985, the motion picture was registered for a copyright under the act with its initial publication date listed as 1960. Concorde-New Horizons Corporation (Concorde) (defendant) was a co-owner of the copyright in the screenplay and also held the motion-picture rights to the screenplay, but Concorde never renewed the copyright on the motion picture, and it expired in 1988. In 1981, a musical play was produced based on the motion picture, and Alan Menken and Shoptalk, Limited (plaintiffs) held the rights to the musical composition. In 1983, Concorde and Griffith reached a settlement agreement with Shoptalk and Menken related to a dispute over the musical’s potential infringement of the copyrights in the screenplay and motion picture. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, Shoptalk and Menken were granted the rights to produce the musical in exchange for payment of royalties. However, in 1991, Shoptalk and Menken learned that the copyright in the motion picture had expired in 1988, so they stopped paying royalties to Concorde. Concorde filed suit against Shoptalk and Menken to recover unpaid royalties. The district court held that Concorde’s copyright in the screenplay had not been published by way of the 1960 publication of the motion picture and therefore that the copyright in the screenplay, which was registered in 1982, had not expired. Shoptalk and Menken appealed, arguing that the 1960 publication of the motion picture did constitute publication of the screenplay to the extent that the screenplay was disclosed in the motion picture.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kearse, J.)

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