Case(s): Community for Creative Non-Violence v. Reid, 490 U.S. 730 (1989)
The Community for Creative Non-Violence (“CCNV”), a nonprofit organization, organized a demonstration to draw attention to the issue of homelessness in the United States. As part of the demonstration, the organization commissioned artist James Earl Reid to create a sculpture of a homeless person sleeping on a bench. The sculpture was made from a variety of materials, including steel, aluminum, and plastic, and was intended to be temporary, with the materials to be reused after the demonstration ended.
Reid claimed copyright protection for the sculpture and registered it with the Copyright Office. CCNV argued that the sculpture was a work made for hire, and therefore, the organization was the rightful owner of the copyright.
District Court and Appeal
The district court found that the sculpture was a work made for hire, and therefore, CCNV was the owner of the copyright. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the decision, finding that the sculpture was not a work made for hire and that Reid was entitled to copyright protection. CCNV appealed to the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Decision
Issue: Whether a sculptural work created by an artist for a temporary display in a public area, with the intention of it being dismantled and the materials reused, is entitled to copyright protection under the Copyright Act of 1976.
The Court analyzed the definition of a work made for hire under the Copyright Act of 1976 and determined that the sculpture was not a work made for hire. The Court also rejected CCNV’s argument that the sculpture was not entitled to copyright protection because it was a temporary work. The Court noted that the Copyright Act does not require that a work be intended for permanent display in order to qualify for copyright protection. The Court held that the sculpture met the requirements for copyright protection because it was an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
The Supreme Court held that the sculpture was entitled to copyright protection under the Copyright Act of 1976. The Court’s decision clarified that a work does not need to be intended for permanent display in order to be eligible for copyright protection.