When we talked about the case a couple of months ago, it seemed pretty cut and dried to me: the company used material in the public domain and made something new out of it. That’s what the public domain is FOR.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed 8-0:
- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a video company cannot be sued under a trademark law for reusing documentary footage from a World War II film without giving credit to 20th Century Fox.
The 8-0 decision gives some freedom to people who want to reproduce works that no longer have copyright protection. It overturns a $1.5 million award to Fox, under the trademark law intended to protect consumers from confusion.
The original documentary was “Crusade in Europe.” Dastar Corp. deleted one hour, added a half hour of new material, then sold tape sets for about $25 as “Campaigns in Europe.”
Justice Antonin Scalia said that Dastar could have been sued if it bought videotapes of “Crusade in Europe,” repackaged them and put them on the market.
Instead, he said, the company made some changes and cannot be held liable for misleading the public about the origin of the work.
….The documentary did not have copyright protection when Dastar used it for its own video in 1995 – the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. Dastar sold more than 35,000 copies of “Campaigns in Europe,” court records show. [AP]