HomeFocus AreasCourt CasesDastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., et al. (2003)

Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., et al. (2003)

On June 2, 2003, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion (PDF) in the case, Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. The court ruled unanimously (8-0) in favor of Dastar Corp.

Dastar used Twentieth Century Fox film footage from the 1950s that has entered the public domain to create a documentary on World War II without citing the source of all the footage. Twentieth Century Fox sued Dastar and won. The US Supreme Court has overturned that decision, ruling that Dastar did not break the law when it repackaged the public domain footage.

On February 13, ARL joined other library associations; representatives of the public interest community; computer, and communications associations; and financial services interests in an amicus brief (PDF) to the US Supreme Court on the case. Amici were concerned that a decision in favor of Twentieth Century Fox might undermine the 1991 US Supreme Court decision, Feist Publications Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service, in which the court rejected the sweat-of-the-brow doctrine that could provide copyright protection to the facts contained in databases by virtue of the effort the publisher expended in collecting the facts. Rather, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution's Intellectual Property Clause protects only "the original expression reflected by the selection, coordination, and arrangement of the facts. The facts themselves remained in the public domain."

According to Jonathan Band, ARL's attorney, the decision did not specifically refer to the issue of facts. However, "the reasoning of the court is extremely helpful to supporters of balanced intellectual property laws." The court focused on the definition of the word "origin" in Section 43(a) of the copyright law. Band explained that "the court said that to treat the origin of communication products as the entity that created the underlying intellectual property 'would create a species of mutant copyright law that limits the public's federal right to copy and use expired copyrights.'"

 
 
 

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