Feltner V. Columbia

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 630 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2019

Words: 630|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Feb 12, 2019

In 1991, Columbia Pictures Television violated agreements licensing multiple televisions series. These series aired on three television stations, all owned by C. Elvin Feltner. The violations took place due to Feltner’s act of delinquent payments, but did not prevent Feltner’s station from airing the television series’. This resulted in Columbia suing Feltner for copyright infringement. Columbia then made the attempt to recover statutory damages under the Copyright Act. Feltner was denied the right to a jury trial and Columbia was successful in obtaining statutory damages.

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The Court of Appeals affirmed that neither the Copyright Act nor the Seventh Amendment provided rights to a jury trial regarding statutory damages. In favor of Columbia Pictures Television, the Court of Appeals held that in the Copyright Act, there is no legal right to a jury trial when the copyright owner wishes to recover statutory damages. Section 504 © claims that rather than a jury determining the amount of statutory damages to be rewarded, the Court shall set the amount as they see fit. If the Court views the case as one of copyright infringement that is deliberate or innocent, they may increase or decrease the value of statutory damages. Without a jury within the Court, the components may only be seen as the Judge. However, the Copyright Act does not use that term when delivering decisions of actual damage and profits. Much to his dismay, Feltner’s only reliance was on the address of the constitutional question. Although the copyright act does not grant the basic right of having a jury to trial statutory damages, the Seventh Amendment claims the right to jury trial on all aspects pertaining to the award of statutory damages, namely, the amount. Despite the statue being silent on the point, the Seventh Amendment does include the right to a jury trial, thus insinuating, the right for a jury to assess the amount of statutory damages.

The case was reversed. In spite of the common law not demonstrating the dire need for a jury trial, providing citizens with fair judgment has been a practice among our nation since the court of equity in Britain. Columbia had argued that statutory damages were equitable, therefore, the Seventh Amendment did not apply and the need for a jury trial was nonexistent. In opposition to the argument of Columbia Pictures, a jury trial is necessary to maintain preservation of the common-law rights. The award of statutory damages may distribute purposes traditionally associated with legal relief, such as compensation and punishment. The final decision of the Court held that despite section 504 of the Copyright Act’s silence, Feltner was provided the right to a jury trial. This included the right to a jury decision regarding the amount of statutory damages. Keeping word to the historical evidence behind the Seventh Amendment, Justice Clarence Thomas concluded that, “there is clear and direct historical evidence that juries, both as a general matter and in copyright cases, set the amount for damages awarded to a successful plaintiff.” He also predicted that this conclusion should result in the jury determining the complete amount of statutory damages under Section 504©, in order to remain loyal to production that is the common-law of trial by jury.

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Following this decision, the jury awarded $72,000 in statutory damages for each of the works infringed upon. The total award came to be $31.68 million dollars, three and half times the amount the Judge would have awarded at the prior bench trial. Feltner argued that the Supreme Court’s rulings claimed statutory damages to be unconstitutional and void. The court of appeals rejected this argument and approved the $31.68 million jury award. Feltner then made an attempt to be heard for a second time at the Supreme Court. This attempt was unsuccessful and the $31.68 million award was left intact.

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Cite this Essay

Feltner V. Columbia. (2019, February 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Feltner V. Columbia.” GradesFixer, 11 Feb. 2019,
Feltner V. Columbia. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
Feltner V. Columbia [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Feb 11 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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