Mazer v. Stein

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Mazer v. Stein
Argued December 3, 1953
Decided March 8, 1954
Full case nameMazer v. Stein
Citations347 U.S. 201 (more)
74 S. Ct. 460; 98 L. Ed. 630
Case history
PriorCertiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Copyright may extend to mass-produced items, even though just the aesthetic form, not the mechanical or utilitarian aspects.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · Stanley F. Reed
Felix Frankfurter · William O. Douglas
Robert H. Jackson · Harold H. Burton
Tom C. Clark · Sherman Minton
Case opinions
MajorityReed, joined by Warren, Frankfurter, Jackson, Burton, Clark, Minton
ConcurrenceDouglas, joined by Black
Superseded by

Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201 (1954), was a copyright case decided by the United States Supreme Court. In an opinion written by Justice Stanley F. Reed, the Supreme Court held that the statuettes—male and female dancing figures made of semivitreous china—used as bases for fully equipped electric lamps were copyrightable, even though the lamp itself was a utilitarian mass-produced item.

The case is notable for the quotation, "Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea—not the idea itself." 347 U.S. at 217 (citing F. W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, 193 F.2d 162; Ansehl v. Puritan Pharmaceutical Co., 61 F.2d 131; Fulmer v. United States, 122 Ct. Cl. 195, 103 F.Supp. 1021; Muller v. Triborough Bridge Authority, 43 F.Supp. 298.)

Congress incorporated the Mazer decision into the Copyright Act of 1976 as the concept of separability. For many years, there was confusion over how to determine separability, so tests proliferated and competed against one another. The Supreme Court addressed this issue in the 2017 case Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. and created a canonical test for separability.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Handler, S. P. (1971). "Copyright Protection for Mass-Produced, Commercial Products: A Review of the Developments Following Mazer v. Stein". University of Chicago Law Review. 38 (4): 807–825. doi:10.2307/1598873. JSTOR 1598873.
  • Hauhart, Robert C. (1983). "The Eternal Wavering Line – The Continuing Saga of Mazer v. Stein". Hamline L. Rev. 6: 95.
  • Latman, Alan (1968). "Fifteen Years after Mazer v. Stein: A Brief Perspective". Bull. Copyright Soc'y U.S.A. 16: 278.

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