Not long ago the Computer Lawyer published an article that made the case on how rare copyright trials have become. The article had an appendix listing cases that had been dismissed in favor of the defendant either on the pleadings or summary judgment. The bottom line was that judges are inclined to look at the works at issue in a copyright case early on, make a decision on similarity or dissimilarity, and end the case long before it has the chance to get to a jury.
Two cases decided by the Massachusetts federal district court thus far this year show that, for better or worse, this trend in alive and well in Massachusetts. In McGee v. Andre Benjamin Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge David Woodlock found that Cartoon Network’s Class of 3000 television series did not infringe an animated serial work titled The Music Factory of the 90’s. The Music Factory had been pitched to The Cartoon Network in long-form outline describing the plot and style. Judge Woodlock compared the works at issue and found that the plaintiff failed to establish sufficient similarities to proceed with a copyright claim. No jury, no trial – case dismissed.
In Greenspan v. Random House the plaintiff claimed the book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, infringed the copyright in his book, Authoritas: One Student’s Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era. U.S. Magistrate Robert Collings found that there was evidence of access and of “probative similarity” (probative similarity being the first part of the two-part test for copyright infringement), but that Greenspan could not prove The Accidental Billionaires was “substantially similar” to Authoritas. No jury, no trial – case dismissed.
You were expecting an actal copyright infringement trial? Fagettabout it!