Dastar Corp. v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 539 U.S. 23, 2 (2003)

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24

DASTAR CORP. v. TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP.

Syllabus

some of New Line's Crusade videotapes and merely repackaged them as its own. However, Dastar has instead taken a creative work in the public domain, copied it, made modifications (arguably minor), and produced its very own series of videotapes. If "origin" refers only to the manufacturer or producer of the physical "good" that is made available to the public (here, the videotapes), Dastar was the origin. If, however, "origin" includes the creator of the underlying work that Dastar copied, then someone else (perhaps Fox) was the origin of Dastar's product. At bottom, the Court must decide what 43(a) means by the "origin" of "goods." Pp. 28-31.

(b) Because Dastar was the "origin" of the physical products it sold as its own, respondents cannot prevail on their Lanham Act claim. As dictionary definitions affirm, the most natural understanding of the "origin" of "goods"—the source of wares—is the producer of the tangible product sold in the marketplace, here Dastar's Campaigns videotape. The phrase "origin of goods" in the Lanham Act is incapable of connoting the person or entity that originated the ideas that "goods" embody or contain. The consumer typically does not care about such origination, and 43(a) should not be stretched to cover matters that are of no consequence to purchasers. Although purchasers do care about ideas or communications contained or embodied in a communicative product such as a video, giving the Lanham Act special application to such products would cause it to conflict with copyright law, which is precisely directed to that subject, and which grants the public the right to copy without attribution once a copyright has expired, e. g., Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U. S. 225, 230. Recognizing a 43(a) cause of action here would render superfluous the provisions of the Visual Artists Rights Act that grant an artistic work's author "the right . . . to claim authorship," 17 U. S. C. 106A(a)(1)(A), but carefully limit and focus that right, 101, 106A(b), (d)(1), and (e). It would also pose serious practical problems. Finally, reading 43(a) as creating a cause of action for, in effect, plagiarism would be hard to reconcile with, e. g., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Brothers, Inc., 529 U. S. 205, 211. Pp. 31-38.

34 Fed. Appx. 312, reversed and remanded.

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Breyer, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

David A. Gerber argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Stewart A. Baker, Bennett Evan Cooper, and David Nimmer.

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