Stewart v. Abend

Citation: 495 U.S. 207
Docket Number: 88-2102
Judge: O'Connor
Opinion Date: April 24, 1990

In this case the author of a pre-existing work agreed to assign the rights in his renewal copyright term to the owner of a derivative work, but died before the commencement of the renewal period. The question presented was whether the owner of the derivative work infringed the rights of the successor owner of the pre-existing work by continued distribution and publication of the derivative work during the renewal term of the pre-existing work. The Court ruled that the distribution and publication of a derivative work during the copyright renewal term of a pre-existing work incorporated into the derivative work infringes the rights of the owner of the pre-existing work where the author of that work agreed to assign the rights in the renewal term to the derivative work’s owner but died before the commencement of the renewal period and the statutory successor does not assign the right to use the pre-existing work to the owner of the derivative work.

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