Film production companies may be "authors" under Mexican copyright law, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on Nov. 5.

NEW YORK -- Film production companies may be "authors" under Mexican copyright law, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held on Nov. 5.

In a published opinion that provides little detail about the underlying case, the court resolved a dispute over worldwide intellectual property rights of 34 Spanish-language motion pictures. Copyrights in the films apparently fell into the public domain under U.S. law and were later restored under amendments to the U.S. Copyright Act.

Texas-based Authors' Rights Restoration Corp. (ARRC) initiated the action in federal District Court in Los Angeles.

During the non-jury trial, the judge applied U.S. copyright law that restores copyright protection in foreign works to "the author or initial rightholder of the work as determined by the law of the source country of the work."

ARRC argued that under Mexican copyright law, authors may only be natural persons -- individual screenwriters, composers and directors. Defendants that included Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. claimed that production companies were the authors of these films.

Following an appellate decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas that dealt with an identical issue under Mexican copyright law, the Ninth Circuit Court sided with the producers.