The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit just handed down its Opinion in the TMTV v. Mass Productions, et al or as it’s known in Puerto Rico, “El caso del “Condominio” de Sunshine”. The case began as a dispute among TMTV and Puerto Rican artist, Sunshine Logroño. Logroño, while working with TMTV, had developed a comedy show called “20 Pisos de Historia” . The show was a comedy sitcom that revolved around the lives of several residents of a Condo. Admittedly, it was very funny.
However, after a few years, Sunshine parted ways with TMTV and joined another network. Once there, he made another sitcom, using the same actors, and pretty much the same story line and characters. This time it was called “El Condominio”. Soon after, TMTV sued for copyright infringement. Particularly, TMTV argued it was the owner of the copyright in “20 Pisos” as a result of a work-for-hire agreement, and that the new show was a rip-off from the old one.
Quoting the opinion from the First Circuit:
In due course, the district court granted summaryjudgment in the plaintiff’s favor. TMTV, Corp. v. Mass Prods.,Inc. (TMTV I), 345 F. Supp. 2d 196 (D.P.R. 2004). The court heldthat Morales and Jiménez had authored the first three scripts of 20Pisos pursuant to valid work-for-hire agreements with TMTV’spredecessor in interest and that all later episodes of 20 Pisoswere derivative of the first three. Id. at 204-08. As to infringement, the district court found 20 Pisos and El Condominiovirtually identical. Id. at 213.
The Court also laid down a hefty judgement and a few other things. Both parties appealed. The 1st Circuit affirmed the District Court, holding that:
1) Regardless of whether or not the work-for-hire agreement was valid, the authors (excluding Sunshine), validly assigned their rights to TMTV.
2) The latter show was nearly identical to the first one. Although the characters had different names, characters themselves can be subject to copyright, citing “Infringement can occur where–without copying a singleline–the later author borrows wholesale the entire backdrop,characters, inter-relationships, genre, and plot design of anearlier work.”
Hit the link below for the Opinion.
TMTV v Mass Productions