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Film About Elvis Infringe El's Rights?
Highest Court Ninth Circuit
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Copyright Owner(s)
Elvis Presley Enterprises
Financial Institution(s)
Leiber & Stoller
Photographer(s)
Defendants Film Distributor(s)
Film Producer(s)
Individual(s)
Other Presley, Elvis
Short Description The Defendant produced a 16-hour video about Elvis' life. As part of the video, it included selections from The Ed Sullivan Show, Elvis 1968 Comeback, and The Steve Allen Show. Also, the Plaintiff owned the copyright to some of Elvis' music. The Court noted that Elvis' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show is licensed at $10,000 a minute. In the video, a narrator would sometimes overdub the copyrighted footage, which accounted for about 10% of the movie. The footage also played with the original audio. There was no question the Defendant knew it did not have license for the material; the copyright holder refused the Defendant's request because it was preparing it own video. The Plaintiffs' moved for a preliminary injunction, which was granted. On appeal, the Court was looking only for blatantly incorrect legal or factual conclusions by the trial court. The Court found that the Plaintiffs brought the suit promptly after determining what the video actually depicted. The Plaintiffs would likely have been barred from bringing suit before they knew the content under a theory called prior restraint. The only issue before the Court was whether the Plaintiffs had a probability at succeeding at showing the Defendant did not engage in fair use. Fair use is not copyright infringement based upon an analysis of factors, such as, the purpose of the use, whether commercial or not; the nature of the use; the amount of the portion used in relation to the whole of the copyrighted work; and the effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work. For the first factor, the commercial nature of the video weighs against fair use, but by using the clips in a new work, the Defendant may have transformed the work into a new creation. The clips were not consistently transformed, and in fact, the video was made to profit commercially from the clips - this wasn't a history lesson. For the nature of the work, the video and music used were creative, but because of Elvis' life, they also possessed a newsworthy perspective. The Court found the news aspect overwhelmed by the creative nature. The Court next found that the length and repetitious nature of the clips' usage favored the Plaintiffs. Even where only short portions were used, the Court found that those brief seconds were the "heart of the work" and what gave the images their value. Last, the Defendant's video would effect the market for the copyrighted materials because of their commercial nature and lack of transformation. While the last factor did not weight strongly for either side, the other factors favored the Plaintiffs, so the injunction was upheld. In dissent, one Judge found that the district court made too many factual errors concerning the transformative nature of the work. In the dissent, the Judge criticized the court's wholesale adoption of fact findings prepared by the Plaintiff. - JMC

Legal Issues
Business Associations Corporations Ownership, Property & Assets
Civil Procedure Interlocutory Orders Preliminary Injunction
Constitutional Law First Amendment Fair Use, Parody & Artistic Protection
Copyrights Infringement Copying & Distribution/Dissemination
General Equitable Defenses Laches


Opinions Elvis Presley Enters., Inc. v. Passport Video
334 Fed.Appx. 810
Ninth Circuit , May 29, 2009 ( No. 08-55084 )


Elvis Presley Enters., Inc. v. Passport Video
2005 WL 6211336
C.D. California , November 22, 2005 ( No. CV 02-7042 RSWL (RZx) )


Elvis Presley Enters., Inc. v. Passport Video
357 F.3d 896
Ninth Circuit , November 06, 2003 ( No. 02-57011 )


Elvis Presley Enters., Inc. v. Passport Video
349 F.3d 622
Ninth Circuit , November 06, 2003 ( No. 02-57011 )


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Related Searches Parties
Copyright Owner(s) ( Plaintiff )
Elvis Presley Enterprises ( Plaintiff )
Film Distributor(s) ( Defendant )
Film Producer(s) ( Defendant )
Financial Institution(s) ( Plaintiff )
Individual(s) ( Defendant )
Leiber & Stoller ( Plaintiff )
Photographer(s) ( Plaintiff )
Presley, Elvis ( Other )

Legal Issues
Business Associations / Corporations / Ownership, Property & Assets
Civil Procedure / Interlocutory Orders / Preliminary Injunction
Constitutional Law / First Amendment / Fair Use, Parody & Artistic Protection
Copyrights / Infringement / Copying & Distribution/Dissemination
General / Equitable Defenses / Laches

Courts
Ninth Circuit (highest court)
C.D. California


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