Monday, May 17, 2010
2d Cir: Tortious Interference and Conversion Claims Preempted By Copyright Act
Miller v. Holtzbrinck Publishers, L.L.C., 2010 WL 1932322, 1 -2 (2d Cir. May 14, 2010):
First, we consider Miller's claims against the third-party defendants. The Copyright Act preempts a state law claim when: “(1) the particular work to which the claim is being applied falls within the type of works protected by the Copyright Act under 17 U.S.C. §§ 102 and 103, and (2) the claim seeks to vindicate legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to one of the bundle of exclusive rights already protected by copyright law under 17 U.S.C. § 106.” Briarpatch Ltd., L.P. v. Phoenix Pictures, Inc., 373 F.3d 296, 305 (2d Cir.2004). State law claims may proceed only if those claims contain “extra elements that make it qualitatively different from a copyright infringement claim.” Id. In applying this standard, “we take a restrictive view of what extra elements transform an otherwise equivalent [state law] claim into one that is qualitatively different from a copyright infringement claim.” Id . at 306; accord Nat'l Basketball Ass'n v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841, 851 (2d Cir.1997). More specifically, “[i]f unauthorized publication is the gravamen of [plaintiff's] claim, then it is clear that the right [she] seek[s] to protect is coextensive with an exclusive right already safeguarded by the [Copyright] Act” and thus that state law claim is preempted. Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 723 F.2d 195, 201 (2d Cir.1983), rev'd on other grounds, 471 U.S. 359 (1985) (holding that plaintiff's claims of tortious interference and conversion were preempted by the Copyright Act).
Applying the above framework to this case, we conclude that the Copyright Act preempts Miller's claims of tortious interference and conversion. Here, as in Harper & Row, “unauthorized publication is the gravamen of [her] claim.” Id. As the District Court stated, “[h]er case rests on her theory that [the third-party defendants] tortiously interfered with her business relations and converted her literary work by publishing the book without authorization [by her] or credit [to her].” Miller v. Holtzbrinck Publishers, L.L.C., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92038 at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 12, 2008). For this reason, we conclude that Miller's claims against the third-party defendants are preempted by the Copyright Act.