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Copyright Blog

Cases Update

Rounding Up Four Completed Cases

Woodson v. Atlantic City Bd. of Education

After four long years, the case involving Linda Woodson (“Woodson”) and the Atlantic Board of Education et al (“the Board”), initiated in 2019, was finally concluded. Woodson faced two summary judgments against her case, and after filing a second motion to amend, the judge granted a third summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

The main question in the case’s final stage was whether Woodson was barred by the three-year Statute of Limitations. The court concluded that she was. The district court twice granted summary judgment to the defendants based on the statute, which prohibits plaintiffs from filing claims more than three years after the alleged infractions are known to them.

In her attempt to amend her complaint, Woodson argued that she was unaware of any communication notifying her about the school’s intention to publish her report. However, the defendants produced evidence of an email sent to all employees, including Woodson, regarding an opportunity for publication in Principal Magazine. Woodson responded to this email by attaching her report, which was subsequently published. (See Id. at 10).

The court found that Woodson had reason to believe in 2010 that her article would be published and should have conducted further investigation at that time. Therefore, the statute of limitations began when Woodson responded to the email in 2010 expressing interest in the school’s publication opportunity.

As a result of her failure to investigate when she had reason to do so, Woodson was barred from bringing her copyright case nine years after the event.

Additionally, the court addressed the Board’s inquiry regarding the possibility of sanctioning Woodson under Rule 11. The judge denied the defendants’ request for sanctions, stating that Woodson fell in the category of persons untutored about legal matters and did not warrant such penalties.

Columbia University v. Encyclopedia Iranica Foundation

On August 26, 2019, we first covered a case involving Columbia University and the Encyclopedia Iranica Foundation. After nearly four years of litigation, the parties reached a settlement agreement and mutually opted for voluntary dismissal. On June 9, 2023, both parties agreed to conclude the prolonged litigation following several petitions to extend the discovery period deadline. Each party agreed to bear their own attorney’s fees.

Bits and Splits/
Bits and Splits/

Pearson Education, Inc. et al v. Bookholders LLC

This case, initially reported on May 17, 2021, took almost one year to reach a settlement. Pearson Education, Inc.; Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group, LLC d/b/a Macmillan Learning; Cengage Learning, Inc.; and McGraw Hill LLC (collectively the “Publishers”) wrestled for a long time before reaching an agreement. Publishers had accused Bookholders of distributing and counterfeiting copies of legitimate textbooks, causing financial losses for the Publishers. During the discovery process, the plaintiffs had the chance to examine the disputed textbooks, leading them to conclude that settling with the defendant would be more advantageous. On March 22, 2022, both parties mutually agreed to dismiss the case, with each party responsible for their own attorney’s fees.

Garner Group International, LLC et al v. The Academy Charter School

On June 14, 2021, we reported on a case involving Garner Group International, LLC; James A. Garner; Dr. Sally Thompson; and Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr. (collectively referred to as the “Garner Group” or “Garner”) and the Academy Charter School (referred to as the “Academy”). The case centered on copyright issues concerning a vocational training program that Garner was contracted to create for the Academy. However, the Academy abandoned this arrangement and opted to develop its own program.

On March 18, 2022, the Garner Group requested a conference for voluntary dismissal without prejudice. However, the Academy insisted that any voluntary dismissal should be with prejudice, with attorney’s fees and costs paid by the Garner Group. The Academy argued that it was entitled to receive attorney’s fees since the Garner Group’s actions were deemed frivolous, and they were not the prevailing party in the case. They sought attorney’s fees in the amount of $38,650.

However, a month later, the Garner Group and the Academy reached a settlement, leading to the withdrawal of the Academy’s motion for attorney’s fees, thereby concluding nearly a year of litigation.

Braan v. University of Maryland MSC

On August 16, 2021, we also reported on a case involving healthcare chaplain Barry D. Braan (the “Plaintiff”) and the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation (“Defendant”) regarding intellectual property infringements. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant distributed, reproduced, and published without authorization a chaplain program that Plaintiff had created while serving as a volunteer for Defendant.

On February 14, 2023, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, contending that Plaintiff “failed to state a cause of action for copyright infringement, or for statutory damages and attorney’s fees resulting from alleged infringement” (Motion to Dismiss, pg. 7). The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff did not have a registered copyright at the time of filing the Complaint, as required under section 17 U.S.C. § 411(a).

Agreeing with the Defendant’s argument, the District Court Judge granted the motion to dismiss and dismissed the Plaintiff’s case on June 6, 2023, thereby bringing an end to nearly two years of litigation.