Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Audiovisual Work Definition:

Serial images, with or without sound, intended to be shown by the use of projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, regardless of the nature of the material in which the works are embodied.

Related Terms: Phonorecord

Chapter 17 of the US Code (Copyright) defines an audiovisual work at §101:

Audiovisual works are works that consist of a series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines, or devices such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment, together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of the material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodied."

In Leadsinger Inc. v BMG Music Publishing, the plaintiff distributed a karaoke machine, an all-in-one microphone player that has recorded songs embedded on a microchip within the microphone-player. It had a license to produce phonorecords but the defendant argued that the plaintiff had exceeded the terms of the copyright license with the karaoke device.

Justice Phillips of the United States District Court (California) agreed:

"A ... license specifically authorizes Plaintiff to make phonorecords and nothing more. Defendants aptly categorize Plaintiff s device as an audiovisual device, which is specifically excluded from the definition of a phonorecord. The display of the visual images and lyrics are meaningless with a karaoke device if they are not accompanied by music. Plaintiff admits ... that there is no market for bare lyrics or for devices which cause the transitory display of lyrics of a song in sequential phrases. The images and lyrics are intrinsically intended to be shown with the music from which they are taken; otherwise, there would be no context for the images or lyrics and no market for the product to be sold.

"Moreover, according to the description of Plaintiff's device in its Complaint, there is no option to have the images and lyrics displayed on the television without accompanying music, unless the volume is manually lowered. As the visual images and lyrics are connected with the music, it is clear that Plaintiff's device is an audiovisual work."

REFERENCES:

  • Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publishing, 429 F. Supp. 2d 1190 (2005)

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