Community v. Reid Case Brief

Summary of Community v. Reid, S. Ct. [1989]

Copyright Law- work for hire

Relevant Facts: Petitioners, CCNV, conceived the idea for the nature of a display for the annual Christmas pageant, involving a homeless family over a steam vent, characterizing the Nativity scene. Reid was the sculpture hired to bring the idea to light. Reid and CCNV agreed on the material, form, and price without written instrument and without mentioning of copyrights. Reid worked on the statue, assisted by people he hired and paid out of the money received, and 12 days after it was due, Reid delivered it. He was paid the remainder. Subsequently CCNV wanted to take the statue on tour, and when they brought it in for repairs Reid retained it an filed for copyright, CCNV filed competing copyright application.

Legal Issue(s): Whether a sculptor was independent contractor, or an employee, of association and, thus, was the statue was a work for hire?

Court’s Holding: Independent contractor and not work for hire.

Procedure: District Court found association to be owner of copyright. Sculptor appealed. Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. Supreme Court Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): “Author” is party who actually creates the work, that is, the person who translates idea into fixed, tangible expression entitled to copyright protection; To determine whether work is for hire under copyright statutes, court first should use principles of general common law of agency to ascertain whether work was prepared by employee or independent contractor.

Court Rationale: If the parties prepared the work with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole, then they are joint. That is an issue on remand. The sculpture in question is not a “work made for hire” within the meaning of § 101. Reid was an independent contractor rather than a § 101(1) “employee” since, although CCNV members directed enough of the work to ensure that the statue met their specifications, all other relevant circumstances weigh heavily against finding an employment relationship. Reid engages in a skilled occupation; supplied his own tools; worked in Baltimore without daily supervision from Washington; was retained for a relatively short period of time; had absolute freedom to decide when and how long to work in order to meet his deadline; and had total discretion in hiring and paying assistants. Moreover, CCNV had no right to assign additional projects to Reid; paid him in a manner in which independent contractors are often compensated; did not engage regularly in the business of creating sculpture or, in fact, in any business; and did not pay payroll or Social Security taxes, provide any employee benefits, or contribute to unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation funds.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The df was an employee and CCNV created the idea around the sculpture.

Defendant’s Argument: The df was an independent contractor who paid other employees to work, provided his own tools, and without the direct supervision CCNV.

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