COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC. v. LOEW'S INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
90
Petitioner 
Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. and Patrick Hamilton
Respondent 
Loew's Inc.
Opinion 
Advocates
(for the respondents)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In February 1939, British subject Patrick Hamilton published and copyrighted the play “Gas Light.” The play was later produced and performed in New York under the name “Angel Street.” After the successful run in New York, Loew’s Incorporated (Loew’s), better known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, acquired the rights to the play and produced and released a movie version. In 1945, Jack Benny secured Loew’s consent to produce, perform, and broadcast a radio burlesque version. More than six years later, the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) produced and broadcasted a television show of the burlesque “Gas Light” starring Jack Benny and sponsored by the American Tobacco Company. Neither the CBS, the American Tobacco Company, nor Jack Benny secured consent from either Loew’s or Hamilton.

Loew’s informed CBS that it intended to enforce its rights against infringement, and CBS claimed that its production constituted fair use because it was a parody. Loew’s sued, and the district court held that the television production was an infringement on CBS’s copyright. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed by holding that the fair use doctrine—which generally protects those who use copyrighted material in compilations, listings, and digests—does not allow the wholesale copying of substantial portions of a copyrighted work for the purposes of parody or burlesque without the permission of the copyright owner.

Question 

Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit err in holding that the fair use doctrine does not allow for the substantial use of copyrighted work for the purposes of parody or burlesque without permission of the copyright owner?

Conclusion 
Decision: 4 votes for Loew's Inc., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Copyright Act

No. The judgment below was affirmed by an equally divided Court.

Justice William O. Douglas did not participate in the discussion or decision of this case.

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COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC. v. LOEW'S INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 May 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1957/1957_90>.
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC. v. LOEW'S INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1957/1957_90 (last visited May 26, 2015).
"COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, INC. v. LOEW'S INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed May 26, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1950-1959/1957/1957_90.