Monday, January 17, 2011

Copyright Litigation: Defamation Claim Based on Copyright Registration Filing Survives Summary Judgment

In Morris v. Atchity, 2010 WL 4181452 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 15, 2010), the court declined to grant a summary judgment motion dismissing a claim for defamation based on statements made in a copyright registration.   This is an unusual claim, but the decision does not explain what the allegedly defamatory statement made was.

Any slander of title-type of claim would appear to be preempted by the Copyright Act:  anyone can file a competing claim, this is the point of the copyright registration process.   I didn't dig into the docket sheet to figure out what possible statement might be defamatory.

In Morris v. Atchity, Plaintiff Margaret Morris alleged that her work "Jesus Augustus: From Imperial Cult to Christianity" was infringed by a novel based on the work "The Ashes of Christ/The August God".

Plaintiff alleged that she submitted the work to defendant and had an implied contract.   The court declined summary judgment on the implied contract, finding that material questions of fact precluded a dismissal based on preemption.

Defendants argued that the works share only a similar historical theory.   In denying the motion, the court found that "reasonable minds might differ as to whether there are substantial similarities between the two works with respect to the protected expression of ideas contained in Plaintiff's literary work."

Purchase Copyright Litigation Handbook 2010 by Raymond J. Dowd from West here  
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