Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc.,
392 U.S. 390 (1968)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc., 392 U.S. 390 (1968)

Fortnightly Corp. v. United Artists Television, Inc.

No. 618

Argued March 13, 1968

Decided June 17, 1968

392 U.S. 390


Petitioner operates community antenna television (CATV) systems which receive, amplify, and modulate signals from five television stations, convert them to different frequencies, and transmit them to their subscribers' television sets. Petitioner does not edit the programs or originate any programs of its own. Respondent, which owns copyrights on several motion pictures, had licensed the five television stations to broadcast certain of these films. The licenses did not authorize carriage of the broadcasts by CATV, and in some instances specifically prohibited such carriage. Respondent sued petitioner, which had no copyright license from either respondent or the television stations, for copyright infringement, claiming violation of its exclusive rights under §§ 1(c) and (d) of the Copyright Act of 1909, to "perform . . . in public for profit" (nondramatic literary works) and to "perform . . . publicly" (dramatic works). Petitioner maintained that it did not "perform" the copyrighted works at all. The District Court ruled for respondent on the infringement issue, which was tried separately, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held. Judicial construction of the Copyright Act, in the light of drastic technological changes, has treated broadcasters as exhibitors, who "perform," and viewers as members of the audience, who do not "perform," and, since petitioner's CATV systems basically do no more than enhance the viewers' capacity to receive the broadcast signals, the CATV systems fall within the category of viewers, and petitioner does not "perform" the programs that its systems receive and carry. Pp. 392 U. S. 395-402.

377 F.2d 872, reversed.

Page 392 U. S. 391

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