Case(s): Twin Peaks Prods., Inc. v. Publ’ns Int’l, Ltd., 996 F.2d 1366 (2d Cir. 1993)

Twin Peaks Productions, Inc. owned the television serial drama Twin Peaks that was first televised in 1990. Defendant Publications International, Ltd. published a book titled “Welcome to Twin Peaks: A Complete Guide to Who’s Who and What’s What.” Publications International’s book, based on the first eight episodes of the television series, contained content discussing various aspects of the series, including the series’ characters, creators, producers, location, music, and popularity. Beyond this, the book contained a chapter devoted to the detailed recounting of the first eight episodes’ plots.

Publications International appealed the district court’s ruling that its book infringed Twin Peaks Prods’ work.

Second Circuit Appeal

The Second Circuit held that Publications International’s unauthorized use of aspects of the television series was not fair use. Specifically, the court held that Publications International’s detailed recounting of the show’s plotlines went far beyond merely identifying their basic outline for the transformative purposes of comment or criticism, and that the plot synopses contained in Publications International’s book were essentially “abridgments,” which are protected as derivative works. Because the plot synopses were so detailed, and in fact lifted many sections verbatim from the original scripts, the court found that Publications International copied a substantial amount of Twin Peaks Prods’ original works.

Still yet, the appeals court found that Publications International’s book affected the market or potential market for Twin Peaks Prods’ protected work because a viewer may potentially use Publications International’s detailed plot synopses as a substitute for viewing particular episodes of the series. Finally, there was evidence of an active derivative market for the original copyrighted work – Twin Peaks Prods had licensed at least two “Twin Peaks” books and had plans to license more – demonstrating that Publications International’s book competes in the same market as Twin Peaks Prods’ offerings.