Friday, November 8, 2013

Eastern Microwave, Inc. v. Doubleday Sports, Inc. case brief

Eastern Microwave, Inc. v. Doubleday Sports, Inc. case brief summary
691 F.2d 125 (1982)

In a declaratory judgment action, plaintiff common carrier appealed from a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, which granted defendant's motion for partial summary judgment, holding that plaintiff's retransmission of television signals publicly performed defendant's copyrighted work, and that plaintiff was not an exempt carrier.

Plaintiff common carrier's retransmission of television signals included sports games and other copyrighted audiovisual works. After receiving notification that its retransmissions of sports broadcasts infringed defendant's display copyright, plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that it was a passive carrier exempt from copyright liability under the Copyright Act of 1976,17 U.S.C.S. § 111(a)(3).

  • The court held that plaintiff did not infringe defendant's copyright through its passive retransmission of defendant's broadcast signal to plaintiff's customer cable systems. 
  • Technical restrictions which forced plaintiff to make an initial, one-time determination to retransmit signals of a particular station did not constitute control over the content and selection of the primary transmission precluded under 17 U.S.C.S. § 111(a)(3). 
  • Plaintiff's transmission of particular signals in response to contracts with its customers specifying those signals, and its announcement to potential customers regarding its ability to transmit those signals, were actions not in conflict with the exempt carrier status.


Plaintiff did not infringe defendant's exclusive right to display its copyrighted work by passively retransmitting the entirety of a television broadcast signal to the headends of its customer cable systems, because those services fell within the statutory exemption.

Suggested Study Aid For Sports Law

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