Most litigated cases present fairly routine fact patterns with well-established legal principles. The main point of contention is mustering proof of the facts. Occasionally, courts confront unusual cases which can serve to sharpen understanding of the underlying legal principles involved. These cases also highlight and help define for the bar legal concepts that take on a new understanding when reviewed in light of unusual situations.
We review here three recent copyright decisions from New York federal courts that involve unusual facts or legal postures. Review of these decisions can be both a valuable review of basic copyright concepts and can yield a more nuanced understanding of them. The lessons learned from these cases include (1) use of the fair use doctrine for obtaining copyright; (2) work for hire principles; and (3) interaction of state contract law and copyright.