Business Law – Legal Memo Formatted 5

Elvis Presley, a rock’n’roll singer, became a musical icon during a career that spanned more than twenty years, until he died at the age of 42. Many companies and individuals own copyrights to Presley’s songs, lyrics, photographs, movies, and appearances on television shows. Millions of dollars of Elvis Presley-related copyrighted materials are sold or licensed annually.

Passport Video produced a video documentary titled The Definitive Elvis, comprising sixteen one-hour episodes. The producers interviewed more than 200 people regarding virtually all aspects of Elvis’s life. Passport sold the videos commercially for a profit. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of the videos were composed of copyrighted music and appearances of Presley on television and in movies owned by copyright holders other than Passport. Passport did not obtain permission to use those copyrighted works. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., and other companies and individuals that owned copyrights to the Presley works used by Passport sued Passport for copyright infringement. Passport defended, arguing that its use of the copyrighted materials was fair use. The U.S. district court held in favor of the plaintiff copyright holders and enjoined Passport from further distribution of its documentary videos. Passport appealed.

Did Passport act ethically in including the Elvis Presley copyrighted material in its video? Why do you think Passport video did so? Has there been fair use in this case, or has there been copyright infringement? Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. v. Passport Video, 349 F.3d 622, 2003 U.S. App. Lexis 22775 (United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2003).

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