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HOFHEINZ v. A & E TELEVISION NETWORKS

June 27, 2001

SUSAN NICHOLSON HOFHEINZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
A & E TELEVISION NETWORKS AND WELLER/GROSSMAN PRODUCTIONS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, J., U.S.D.J.

OPINION

Defendants A&E Television Networks ("A&E") and Weller/Grossman Productions, Inc. ("Weller/Grossman") have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.56 to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Susan Nicholas Hofheinz ("Hofheinz") alleging copyright infringement of the film "It Conquered the World", portions of which were used in a biography of Peter Graves, aired on A&E. Because there is no genuine dispute as to the material facts in this case and the footage used in the A&E biography constitutes "fair use" under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107, the motion is granted.

Parties and Prior Proceedings A&E is a cable network, supplying a 24 hour schedule of programming to cable and satellite operators, who in turn supply the programming to their subscribers. A&E's programs consist of documentaries, off-network dramatic productions and original motion pictures. It derives its revenues largely from advertisers and fees charged for cable operator licenses.

Weller/Grossman is a California-based production company that produces documentaries, biographies and historical programs.

Weller/Grossman produced the biography of Peter Graves which was aired by A&E giving rise to this action.

Susan Hofheinz owns the copyright to the 1956 science fiction film, "It Conquered the World". "It Conquered the World" stars Peter Graves in one of his earliest Hollywood performances as well as Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef and Beulah, the monster.

The movie was produced by American International Pictures, whose principals were James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff. Mr. Nicholson is the late husband of Ms. Hofheinz.

The complaint in this action alleging infringement of the copyright in "It Conquered the World," by the defendants in producing and airing the biography of Peter Graves was filed on January 8, 2000. The instant motion was heard and marked fully submitted on March 28, 2001.

Facts

The facts are derived from the parties' Rule 56.1 submissions and are undisputed.

On April 4, 1997, defendant A&E broadcast to its cable licensees, as part of its "Biography" series, the program, "Peter Graves: Mission Accomplished," a biography of the actor Peter Graves. The program was an hour long (with commercials) and produced by defendant Weller/Grossman.

Each of A&E's "Biography" programs deals with the life of some famous or well-known person, usually someone prominent in history, politics, business or the arts. The series has a narrator-host, either Jack Perkins or Peter Graves, and develops and treats the life of its subject through comment and brief interviews with persons who knew or have written about the person.

The visual content of the series often includes photographs, film and audio-visual material when available.

The subject program, "Peter Graves: Mission Accomplished" is a biography. It was produced for a wide commercial audience and for profit, but a work that treats as its subject the life of a well-known television and motion picture actor. The Peter Graves biography is approximately 44 minutes long (60 minutes with commercials) and covers the formative years of his life and his career as a television and screen actor. The program narrator is "Biography" host Jack Perkins and Graves himself, members of his family and professional colleagues review the major achievements of his life. The program devotes considerable attention to Graves' work, starting with an account of his earliest efforts as a stage actor in college, moving through his first Hollywood films in the 1950's, his recognized performance in "Stalag 17" and then on to his television career in "Fury" and ultimately to "Mission Impossible," the motion picture "Airplane," and Graves as host of A&E's "Biography." Film clips and short pieces of videotape of ...


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