HOFHEINZ v. AMC PRODUCTIONS, INC. No. CV-00-5827(CPS).
147 F.Supp.2d 127 (2001)
Susan Nicholson HOFHEINZ, Plaintiff, v. AMC PRODUCTIONS, INC., et ano., Defendants.
United States District Court, E.D. New York.
Order Amending Memorandum January 11, 2001.
James W. Dabney, Pennie & Edmonds, New York City, for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SIFTON, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiff Susan Nicholson Hofheinz moves by order to show cause signed November 1, 2000, for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure against defendants, AMC Productions, Inc. and Rainbow Media Holdings, Inc. alleging that defendants have (1) infringed plaintiff's copyrighted works in violation of the Copyright Act of 1976 (the "Act"), 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq.,
For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's application for a preliminary injunction is denied. What follows sets forth the findings of fact and conclusions of law on which the decision denying a preliminary injunction is based, as required by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The following facts are taken from the submissions of the parties in connection with the instant application. Since the relevant facts are undisputed, no evidentiary hearing is required. See Brown v. Giuliani, 158 F.R.D. 251, 254 (E.D.N.Y. 1994).
Plaintiff is the widow of the late James Nicholson, one of the principals responsible for many of the motion pictures produced by American International Pictures ("AIP") during most of the company's existence. From 1954 through 1980, AIP released more than five hundred motion picture films. AIP's films helped establish what are known as the monster and teenage motion picture genres. Plaintiff holds the copyrights to a number of her late husband's motion pictures, six of which are at issue here.
Defendant AMC Productions, Inc. is the subsidiary of American Movie Classics Company ("AMCC"), a cable television programming service and acts as AMCC's licensing arm. AMCC is currently accessible to over sixty-five million United States domestic households.
In February 1999, plaintiff met with Nancy McKenna, vice president of Production for AMCC, to discuss AMCC's desire to produce a documentary about AIP. On March 23, 1999, plaintiff sent defendants a written contract proposal (the "March 23, 1999 proposal"), offering defendants the right to use six, 59-second clips from AIP motion pictures in which plaintiff owns copyrights to enable defendants to produce "It Conquered the World! The Story of American International Pictures" (the "Documentary"), a documentary about AIP and of its two principals, Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson. The original proposal offered defendants the rights to exhibit
In January 2000, John Fitzgerald, associate producer at Planet Grande Pictures, Inc., AMCC's production company, contacted plaintiff, explaining that he contemplated using photographs of Nicholson in the Documentary. In response, plaintiff sent Fitzgerald approximately twenty photographs of Nicholson. Fitzgerald later returned the photos to plaintiff without comment. Plaintiff states that she assumed that AMC did not intend to use any of the photos in the Documentary since Fitzgerald did not ask her to give permission to do so.
In May 2000, defendants decided the quality of the Documentary made it worthy of consideration of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' (the "Academy") award for the year's best documentary. In June 2000, McKenna met with a consultant to determine what requirements had to be met in order to qualify the Documentary for award consideration and was told that, in order to be eligible for such an award, the Documentary had to have been exhibited in theaters for at least seven consecutive days during the year. In June 2000, the parties began discussing the terms of an additional license granting defendants the right to the show the Documentary in theaters.
On July 12, 2000, Fitzgerald sent plaintiff a list of the film clips used in the final production of the Documentary. The list included a short clip of "The Amazing Colossal Man." Plaintiff immediately notified McKenna that "The Amazing Colossal Man" was not covered by the licensing agreement.
Defendants asked plaintiff for permission to substitute the clip from "The Amazing Colossal Man" for a clip from "Apache Woman," which they had not used in the Documentary.
On August 17, 2000, Abigail Kende, president of Tele-Cinema, Inc., a company that does copyright and title clearances for AMCC, faxed plaintiff a written contract proposal modifying the licensing agreement by substituting "The Amazing Colossal Man" for "Apache Woman" and including the right to exhibit the Documentary in theaters for seven days. On August 28, 2000, Kende mailed plaintiff three hard copies of the modified licensing proposal on August 28, 2000. Kende also mailed plaintiff two checks for $2,500 and $5,500, representing plaintiff's licensing and consulting fees.
Plaintiff's First Modification to the Film Clip License Agreement stated in pertinent part:
The agreement further provides that, in exchange for plaintiff's consulting services, defendants will pay plaintiff an additional $5,500, for a total of $8,000, and will grant plaintiff consulting credit in a "non-rolling, single fixed card or frame, using a font equal in size to that of other single card credits, placed at a position near the end of the Program immediately before that of the producer."
On September 12, 2000, defendants accepted plaintiff's modification, executed three copies of the "First Modification to Film Clip License Agreement," and mailed all three back to plaintiff Federal Express with a request that plaintiff return one fully executed copy for defendants' files. Plaintiff never signed any of the partially executed copies returned to her. Plaintiff argues that the modification sent to defendants was not an "offer" that could be accepted and that she was unwilling to enter a modification of their original licensing agreement until she had an opportunity to view the Documentary to assure that it otherwise complied with the parties' original licensing agreement.
From August 30, 2000, through September 12, 2000, plaintiff and McKenna had several conversations with respect to the screening of the Documentary that AMC planned to host at the Little Theater in Los Angeles on September 18, 2000. Plaintiff was one of the guests invited to the celebrity screening, and on September 4, 2000, plaintiff requested that defendants put an additional twenty guests on the screening's guest list.
On September 22, 2000, defendants ran an advertisement in The Los Angeles Times stating that the Documentary would be shown at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, California. The Documentary ran for seven days, from September 22, through September 27, 2000. Thirty four persons attended the theatrical exhibition over the course of the seven-day run, generating total revenues of $187.
On September 27, 2000, plaintiff, by order to show cause, applied for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. On September 28, 2000,
On October 20, 2000, plaintiff amended her complaint to include additional causes of action and new allegations of copyright infringement and, by motion made returnable the same day as the order to show cause, sought a preliminary injunction on the new causes of action alleged in the amended complaint. Defendants objected to plaintiff's motion, claiming that they were not afforded adequate time to respond to plaintiff's motion. On October 26, 2000, the Court adjourned the return date of the original order to show cause to November 20, 2000 and on November 1, 2000, issued an order returnable November 20, 2000, requiring defendants to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue pending the trial of the causes of action contained in plaintiff's amended complaint. The parties subsequently stipulated to an adjournment of the order to show cause to December 18, 2000.
Section 502 of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 502, provides that applications to enjoin infringing conduct shall be governed by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under Rule 65, a preliminary injunction is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates "(a) irreparable harm, and (b) either (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, or (2) sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them fair grounds for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in its favor." Genesee Brewing Co. v. Stroh Brewing Co.,
The showing of irreparable harm is the "single most important prerequisite for the issuance of a preliminary injunction," Bell & Howell Mamiya Co. v. Masel Supply Co.,
In copyright infringement cases, once a prima facie case of copyright infringement is established, the allegations of irreparable injury need not be very detailed because such injury is generally presumed. See ABKCO Music, Inc. v. Stellar Records,
Plaintiff fails to point to any tangible, imminent, irreparable harm to meet her burden with respect to her contract, unfair competition, and California statutory action. She relies on the presumption of irreparable harm that follows when a movant establishes a prima facie case of copyright infringement. Defendants argue that plaintiff has failed to establish irreparable harm because plaintiff has failed to allege any injury not fully compensable by monetary damages. In addition, defendants argue that the equities of the case favor denying plaintiff's application because of the irreparable injury defendants would endure if the Court were to issue a preliminary injunction in this matter.
Here, plaintiff's copyrights are not in dispute, and I assume that they are valid. The question remains, however, whether the acts alleged by the plaintiff amount to unauthorized copying. In addition to alleging that defendants unlawfully exhibited the Documentary in theaters, plaintiff's amended complaint alleges additional claims of copyright infringement, including a claim that defendants improperly exhibited fifteen seconds of copyrighted material from "The Amazing Colossal Man," thirty-seven seconds of still photographs of Nicholson bearing copyright notices, twenty-one seconds of plaintiff's copyrighted "Apache Women" poster, and forty-four seconds of monster character models.
I assume for purposes of this application that plaintiff has established a prima facie case of copyright infringement entitling her to a presumption of irreparable harm with respect to plaintiff's copyright infringement claims. I conclude that plaintiff has not established irreparable harm with respect to any other claims in her complaint or preliminary injunction application.
In order to prove a violation of the Lanham Act for false attribution of copyrights, a plaintiff must prove: (1) the work originated with the plaintiff; (2) the origin was falsely designated by the defendant; (3) the false designation was likely to cause
Here, plaintiff has failed to establish a likelihood of confusion entitling her to a presumption of irreparable harm. First, the Documentary contains no representations as to copyright ownership. Second, defendants have offered the declarations of Arkoff (Arkoff Dec. ¶ 13), Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald Dec. ¶¶ 19-20), and Kende (Kende Second Dec. ¶¶ 13-15), all of whom declared in substance that anyone interested in film footage or other materials depicted in the Documentary would not rely on that "program or its credits as any kind of reference source for ascertaining the copyright status or ownership of such materials." (Arkoff Dec. ¶ 13.) These declarations are undisputed. Therefore, plaintiff has failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits and is not entitled to presumption of irreparable harm. See Federal Express Corp., 201 F.3d at 173. Accordingly, her preliminary injunction request under the Lanham Act must be denied.
Plaintiff also failed to meet her burden of proving irreparable harm on her breach of contract claim. Plaintiff has failed to allege any harm that would not be fully compensable with an award of monetary damages. In fact, plaintiff's counsel suggested as much during the parties' September 28, 2000 argument when he stated that, "if [defendants] had gotten a license or even if they get a license, if they want to settle the case, perhaps they can exhibit this between now and the end of the year or next year and go for an academy award." Because plaintiff has not even attempted to establish that she was irreparably harmed by defendants' alleged breach of the parties' original licensing agreement, I need not reach plaintiff's likelihood of success on her breach of contract claim.
Plaintiff has also failed to establish that her claim of unfair competition entitles her to the issuance of a preliminary injunction.
Finally, plaintiff also failed to establish the existence of irreparable harm on her claim brought under California's publicity rights statute, Section 3344.1 of the California Civil Code. See Michaels v. Internet Entertainment Group, Inc.,
Likelihood of Success/Substantial Questions on the Merits on Plaintiff's Copyright Claims
With respect to all of her claims, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits. With respect to her infringement action, plaintiff is unlikely to prevail on the merits of her copyright
Section 107 of the Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107,
17 U.S.C. § 107. Defendants carry the burden of showing that their infringing use was fair. See Coleman v. ESPN, Inc.,
Purpose and Character of Use
The first statutory factor is the purpose and character of the allegedly infringing use. The focus of this factor is "whether the new work merely supersedes the objects of the original creation ... or instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message; it asks, in other words, whether and to what extent the new work is `transformative.'" Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579, 114 S.Ct. 1164 (citations omitted). Transformative works "lie at the heart of the fair use doctrine's guarantee of breathing space within the confines of copyright. ... [T]he more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use." Id. at 579, 114 S.Ct. 1164.
Here, defendants' Documentary will likely be found to be "transformative" on the trial of this matter; it does not merely purport to supersede the original works at issue, but to create a new copyrightable documentary. While plaintiff's copyrighted movies aimed to entertain their audience, defendants' Documentary aims to educate the viewing public of the impact that Arkoff and Nicholson had on the movie industry. The Documentary appears intended to add something of value rather than simply copying the copyrighted expression that it documents. Indeed, it seems likely to stimulate a market for the original rather than replace it. Just as a parody "needs to mimic an original to make its point," see Campbell, 510 U.S. at 580-81, 114 S.Ct. 1164, and a biographer is permitted to quote his subject, see New Era Publications, Int'l v. Carol Pub. Group,
Plaintiff argues that the fact that defendants will profit from the exhibition of the Documentary to over "67,000,000 paying cable subscribers" weighs against a finding of fair use. The commercial nature of the Documentary, while significant, is not dispositive in light of the Documentary's transformative nature. See Campbell, 510 U.S. at 584, 114 S.Ct. 1164 (stating that, if "commerciality carried presumptive force against a finding of fairness, the presumption would swallow nearly all of the illustrative uses listed in the preamble paragraph of § 107"). Accordingly, the purpose and character of the Documentary favors a finding of fair use.
Nature of Copyrighted Work
The second factor looks to the value of materials used and "calls for recognition that some works are closer to the core of intended copyright protection than others." Campbell, 510 U.S. at 586, 114 S.Ct. 1164. The more the infringed material resembles the original, creative expression, the more likely it will be that it falls "within the core of copyright's protective purposes." Id. Whether a work is published or unpublished is also a critical element of its "nature." See Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 564, 105 S.Ct. 2218. In the case of a published work, "even substantial quotations might qualify as fair use." Id.
Here, the nature of the copyrighted material at issue is a combination of both creative expression, i.e., the film clips, the poster, model monsters, and less creative expression such as the still photographs of Mr. Nicholson. The bulk of the copyrighted material at issue is creative expression, lying at the core of copyright protection. See Campbell, 510 U.S. at 586, 114 S.Ct. 1164. At the same time, the same works have previously been published through the release of AIP's films and posters to the public.
Amount and Substantiality of Portion Used
This factor looks to the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. This factor "has both a quantitative and a qualitative element to it. As a result, the factor has favored copyright holders where the portion used formed a significant percentage of the copyrighted work, or where the portion used was essentially the heart of the copyrighted work." Wright, 953 F.2d at 738 (internal citations omitted).
Here, the film clips used do not amount to a substantial portion of the overall copyrighted works. Defendants state without contradiction that an average of twenty-six seconds from each of the films in question appears in the Documentary, ranging from as little as ten seconds to as much as fifty-four seconds. Defendants exhibited a 14.87-second clip from "The Amazing Colossal Man," a 21.33-second clip of the poster promoting the film "Apache Women," a 43.77-second clip exhibiting models of the monsters Beulah and Saucerman, and 37.43 seconds of clips showing the unpublished photos of the late Mr. Nicholson. Such de minimus amounts of a full-length feature film and such de minimus showings from the originals favor a finding of fair use. See, e.g., Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. v. Comline Business Data, Inc.,
Nor can it be said persuasively at this point that the infringing material gets at the "heart" of the copyrighted works. See e.g., Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 564-65, 105 S.Ct. 2218; Wright, 953 F.2d at 738.
Effect of Use upon Potential Market
The fourth factor focuses on the effect the infringing conduct will have upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. See 17 U.S.C. § 107(4). Analyzing the fourth factor requires the Court to balance "the benefit the public will derive if the use is permitted and the personal gain the copyright owner will receive if the use is denied." MCA, Inc. v. Wilson,
Here, plaintiff has not articulated any tangible way in which defendants' Documentary will reduce the potential market for her copyrighted works. See Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 567, 105 S.Ct. 2218 (noting that, "once a copyright holder establishes with reasonable probability the existence of a causal connection between the infringement and a loss of revenue," the burden shifts to the infringer to show that the loss would have occurred without the taking of copyrighted expression). The alleged infringing clips "are too few, too short, and too small in relation to the whole" to undercut the market for plaintiff's copyrighted works. Monster Communications, 935 F.Supp. at 495. To the contrary, after viewing the documentary, I find at this point that it the Documentary may increase market demand for plaintiff's copyrighted works and make more people aware of the influence that AIP had in developing the "B" movie genre. Moreover, defendants' brief display of the photographs, poster, and model monsters at issue should only increase consumer demand as well as the value of those items after the Documentary heightens public awareness of AIP's role in shaping Hollywood productions.
Plaintiff claims that she will lose the licensing value of her copyrighted works if defendants' use is deemed "fair." Plaintiff's argument is flawed. First, plaintiff's claim of market usurpation is misguided; the question is what effect will the exhibition of defendants' Documentary have on the demand for plaintiff's infringed works themselves, not the effect the Documentary will have on her ability to license those works in the future. See Monster, 935 F.Supp. at 495. Second, plaintiff's argument, if carried to its logical conclusion, would eviscerate the affirmative defense of fair use since every copyright infringer seeking the protection of the fair use doctrine could have potentially sought a license from the owner of the infringed work. The very point of fair use is that, in certain circumstance, such as the one at bar, the law will not require an infringer of a copyrighted work to obtain such a license if it advances the overall goal of copyright — to create more works. See Rosemont Enterprises, Inc. v. Random House, Inc.,
While plaintiff's market share would not appear to substantially benefit from denying defendants' claim of fair use and could actually be negatively affected, I find that the public would be hindered by a denial of defendants' fair use defense. Defendants have gone to considerable length to create a film that documents the origins of AIP and its significant impact on the American movie industry. It contains information which, if the general public does not find interesting, at the very least, movie aficionados across the country will find informative and entertaining. See Campbell, 510 U.S. at 578 n. 10, 114 S.Ct. 1164 (noting that injunctive relief may be withheld when there is "a strong public interest in the publication of the second work [and] the copyright owner may be adequately protected by an award of damages") (quotation omitted). Accordingly, the fourth factor also favors a finding of fair use.
Thus, although the record is not as complete as it might be, given the expedited nature of these proceedings, the balance of factors prescribed in a fair use analysis favors a finding of fair use for the purposes of plaintiff's preliminary injunction application. See Wright, 953 F.2d at 740 (stating that the district court correctly granted defendants summary judgment where three of the four factors clearly favored the defendants). Accordingly, since plaintiff seems at this stage of the litigation unlikely to prevail on the merits, even assuming that she has protectable rights in the works in question, because defendants are likely to establish that their use is a fair one within the meaning of the Copyright Act, plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is denied.
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