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Copyright Blog

Wrap Up: Pepperdine Case Dismissed

Legal Proceedings Between Pepperdine University and Dr. McGucken Come to an End

This case was previously reported on in May and October of 2022.

The case concerned a photo of a beach sunset taken by Dr. Elliot McGucken ("McGucken") and used by Pepperdine University (the "University") on the cover of "The Orange Book: 2021 Academic Planning Guide." This guide was published online and distributed to many students. McGucken filed a copyright infringement suit against the University, stating that his image had been used without permission in May of 2022.

A Person Taking Photo Using a Smartphone
Photo by Sefa via Pexels

McGucken stated that the University's use of the image violated his rights of distribution, reproduction, and display. He sought a jury trial as well as many forms of relief, including the removal of all content using the photo as well as statutory damages. The University filed an Answer to McGucken's Complaint, arguing "innocent infringement, fair use, transformative use, and lack of notice."

On November 24, 2022, following a Stipulation to Dismiss by the parties, the Court ordered that the case be dismissed with prejudice. Both the plaintiff and defendant were to pay their own expenses and attorneys' fees. Because the the case was settled out of court, there was no final ruling on whether the University was guilty of infringement, and the case is now closed.