â€śChurch Picnic Story Quilt,â€ť a silk screened quilt created by Faith Ringgold, is in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.Â The High Museum has a license to sell poster reproductions of the work. In the early 1990â€™s, HBO produced an episode of the sitcom, â€śROC,â€ť in which the poster of the â€śChurch Picnic Story Quiltâ€ť was used as a set decoration. Throughout a scene of the television show, the poster was visible nine times for a total of 26.75 seconds. The poster used in the television show did not include the identifying information that is printed on all the posters of â€śChurch Picnic Story Quilt.â€ť The television show was later reaired on the Black Entertainment Television network where Ringgold saw it in 1995.
HBO and BET claim that their use of the poster as a set decoration was de minimis. The court ruled the use of the poster in the television episode was not de minimis because it is clearly recognizable as Ringgoldâ€™s work and could be seen in its entirety over the 26.75 seconds of air time.
The court ruled that HBO and BETâ€™s claim to fair use was invalid because:
Purpose and Character of Use: HBO and BETâ€™s use the copyrighted work for decorative purposes, the same purpose for which Ringgold created the work.Â Further, HBO and BETâ€™s use of the work is not transformative; they add nothing new to the original.
Amount and Substantiality of the Copyrighted Work Used: Even though the poster was only visible for a brief period of time, over the 26.75 seconds the whole work could be seen.
Effect of the Use on the Potential Market: There is a market to license the poster for use on television sets. In the past, Ringgold has refused to license the poster for use on a television show because of price and accreditation disputes. Ringgold does not have to demonstrate a negative effect on her ability to license the poster.Â She only has to show that there is a market to license the poster for use as a set decoration.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Ringgold reversing the lower courtâ€™s granting of summary judgment for HBO and BET.