A recent decision from the Southern District of New York demonstrates the importance of pleading sufficient factual allegations in a copyright infringement case.
In Kane LLC v. Scholastic Corp., Case No. 12-cv-3890, 2013 WL 709276 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2013), the Court dismissed plaintiff’s copyright claim because it did not specify which works were at issue, which acts constituted infringement, and the time period that the infringement occurred.
Plaintiff was a stock photograph agency that licensed certain copyrighted photographs to defendant. The parties entered into a licensing agreement which granted defendant the right to use the photographs under certain limited terms. In the complaint, plaintiff alleged that defendant used the photographs without permission or beyond the scope of the licensing agreement. Plaintiff listed the works in the complaint, but indicated that the list was not exhaustive. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint.
The Court granted the motion to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint did not specify which works were at issue and did not allege the acts that constituted infringement. Specifically, the Court noted that it was unclear whether the copyright registration numbers contained in the complaint corresponded to the list. Further, the complaint contained broad conclusory statements of infringement because it did not provide factual support that defendant exceeded the licenses and used the works without permission. The most significant deficiency in the complaint was its failure to specify a time period of the alleged infringement.
Although defendant’s motion to dismiss was granted, plaintiff was granted leave to file an amended complaint.
This case demonstrates that copyright plaintiffs must sufficiently plead the factual allegations regarding the works at issue, the infringing acts, and the relevant time period. Although a correctable error in this case, plaintiff suffered a loss at the offset.