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Week 7
  • 1 Three Boys Music v. Bolton (2000)

    1

    212 F.3d 477 (9th Cir. 2000)

    2
    THREE BOYS MUSIC CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Appellee,
    v.
    MICHAEL BOLTON, individually and d/b/a MR. BOLTON'S MUSIC, INC.; ANDREW GOLDMARK; NON-PAREIL MUSIC, INC.; WARNER-CHAPPELL MUSIC LIMITED; WARNER TAMERLANE PUBLISHING CORP.; WB MUSIC CORP.; and SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, INC., Defendants-Appellants.
    3

    Nos. 97-55150, 97-55154

    4

    UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

    5

    Argued and Submitted October 5, 1999
    Filed May 9, 2000

    6

    [480] COUNSEL: Robert G. Sugarman, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, New York, New York, for the defendants-appellants.

    7

    Russell J. Frackman, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, Los Angeles, California, for the defendant-appellant.

    8

    Pierce O'Donnell, O'Donnell & Shaeffer, Los Angeles, California, for the plaintiff-appellee.

    9

    John P. McNicholas, McNicholas & McNicholas, Los Angeles, California, for the plaintiff-appellee.

    10

    Louis Petrich, Leopold, Petrich, & Smith, Los Angeles, California, for amici, Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. and Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.

    11

    Appeals from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Lourdes G. Baird, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-92-01177 LGB

    12

    Before: Betty B. Fletcher, Dorothy W. Nelson, and Melvin Brunetti, Circuit

    13

    Judges.

    14
    OPINION
    15

    D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

    16

    In 1994, a jury found that Michael Bolton's 1991 pop hit, "Love Is a Wonderful Thing," infringed on the copyright of a 1964 Isley Brothers' song of the same name. The district court denied Bolton's motion for a new trial and affirmed the jury's award of $5.4 million.

    17

    Bolton, his co-author, Andrew Goldmark, and their record companies ("Sony Music") appeal, arguing that the district court erred in finding that: (1) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that the appellants had access to the Isley Brothers' song; (2) sufficient evidence supported the jury's finding that the songs were substantially similar; (3) subject matter jurisdiction existed based on the Isley Brothers registering a complete copy of the song; (4) sufficient evidence supported the jury's attribution of profits to the infringing elements of the song; (5) Sony Music could not deduct its tax liability; and (6) the appellants' motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence was unwarranted.

    18

    We affirm.

    19
    I. BACKGROUND
    20

    The Isley Brothers, one of this country's most well-known rhythm and blues groups, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They helped define the soul sound of the 1960s with songs such as "Shout," "Twist and Shout," and "This Old Heart of Mine," and they mastered the funky beats of the 1970s with songs such as "Who's That Lady, " "Fight the Power," and "It's Your Thing." In 1964, the Isley Brothers wrote and recorded "Love is a Wonderful Thing " for United Artists. The Isley Brothers received a copyright for "Love is a Wonderful Thing" from the Register of Copyrights on February 6, 1964. The following year, they switched to the famous Motown label and had three top-100 hits including "This Old Heart of Mine."

    21

    Hoping to benefit from the Isley Brothers' Motown success, United Artists released "Love is a Wonderful Thing" in 1966. The song was not released on an album, only on a 45record as a single. Several industry publications predicted that "Love is a Wonderful Thing" would be a hit -"Cash Box" on August 27, 1966, "Gavin Report" on August 26, 1966, and "Billboard" on September 10, 1966. On September 17, 1966, Billboard listed "Love is a Wonderful Thing" at number 110 in a chart titled "Bubbling Under the Hot 100. " The song was never listed on any other Top 100 charts. In 1991, the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing" was released [481] on compact disc. See Isley Brothers, The Isley Brothers -The Complete UA Sessions, (EMI 1991).

    22

    Michael Bolton is a singer/songwriter who gained popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s by reviving the soul sound of the 1960s. Bolton has orchestrated this soul-music revival in part by covering old songs such as Percy Sledge's "When a Man Love a Woman" and Otis Redding's"(Sittin' on the) Dock of the Bay." Bolton also has written his own hit songs. In early 1990, Bolton and Goldmark wrote a song called "Love Is a Wonderful Thing." Bolton released it as a single in April 1991, and as part of Bolton's album,"Time, Love and Tenderness." Bolton's "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" finished 1991 at number 49 on Billboard's year-end pop chart.

    23

    On February 24, 1992, Three Boys Music Corporation filed a copyright infringement action for damages against the appellants under 17 U.S.C. SS 101 et seq. (1988). The parties agreed to a trifurcated trial. On April 25, 1994, in the first phase, the jury determined that the appellants had infringed the Isley Brothers' copyright. At the end of second phase five days later, the jury decided that Bolton's "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" accounted for 28 percent of the profits from "Time, Love and Tenderness." The jury also found that 66 percent of the profits from commercial uses of the song could be attributed to the inclusion of infringing elements. On May 9, 1994, the district court entered judgment in favor of the Isley Brothers based on the first two phases.

    24

    The deadline for post-trial motions was May 25, 1994. On that day, the appellants filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law and a motion for new trial. The district court denied the motions on August 11, 1994. On June 8, 1994, the appellants filed a second motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence on the issue of copyright ownership. The district court dismissed this motion as untimely.

    25

    On December 5, 1996, the district court adopted the findings of the Special Master's Amended Report about the allocation of damages (third phase). In the final judgment entered against the appellants, the district court ordered Sony Music to pay $4,218,838; Bolton to pay $932,924; Goldmark to pay $220,785; and their music publishing companies to pay $75,900. They timely appealed.

    26
    II. DISCUSSION
    27

    Proof of copyright infringement is often highly circumstantial, particularly in cases involving music. A copyright plaintiff must prove (1) ownership of the copyright; and (2) infringement -that the defendant copied protected elements of the plaintiff's work. See Smith v. Jackson , 84 F.3d 1213, 1218 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). Absent direct evidence of copying, proof of infringement involves fact-based showings that the defendant had "access" to the plaintiff's work and that the two works are "substantially similar." Id.

    28

    Given the difficulty of proving access and substantial similarity, appellate courts have been reluctant to reverse jury verdicts in music cases. See, e.g., id. at 1221 (affirming a jury's verdict for the defendants in a copyright infringement case involving Michael Jackson and other musicians); Gaste v. Kaiserman, 863 F.2d 1061, 1071 (2d Cir. 1988) (affirming a jury's damages award against a defendant in a music copyright infringement case). Judge Newman's opinion in Gaste nicely articulated the proper role for an appeals court in reviewing a jury verdict:

    29

    The guiding principle in deciding whether to overturn a jury verdict for insufficiency of the evidence is whether the evidence is such that, without weighing the credibility of the witnesses or otherwise considering the weight of the evidence, there can be but one conclusion as to the verdict that reasonable men could have reached.

    30

    Id. at 1066 (internal quotations omitted). In Arnstein v. Porter, the seminal case [482] about musical copyright infringement, Judge Jerome Frank wrote:

    31

    Each of these two issues - copying and improper appropriation - is an issue of fact. If there is a trial, the conclusions on those issues of the trier of the facts - of the judge if he sat without a jury, or of the jury if there was a jury trial - bind this court on appeal, provided the evidence supports those findings, regardless of whether we would ourselves have reached the same conclusions.

    32

    Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 469 (2d Cir. 1946).

    33

    As a general matter, the standard for reviewing jury verdicts is whether they are supported by "substantial evidence" -that is, such relevant evidence as reasonable minds might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. See Poppell v. City of San Diego, 149 F.3d 951, 962 (9th Cir. 1998). The credibility of witnesses is an issue for the jury and is generally not subject to appellate review. See Gilbrook v. City of Westminster, 177 F.3d 839, 856 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 120 S. Ct. 614 (1999).

    34

    We affirm the jury's verdict in this case in light of the standard of review and copyright law's "guiding principles." Although we will address each of the appellant's arguments in turn, we focus on access because it is the most difficult issue in this case. Our decision is predicated on judicial deference -finding that the law has been properly applied in this case, viewing the facts most favorably to the appellees, and not substituting our judgment for that of the jury.

    35
    A. Access
    36

    Proof of access requires "an opportunity to view or to copy plaintiff's work." Sid and Marty Krofft Television Prods., Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., 562 F.2d 1157, 1172 (9th Cir. 1977). This is often described as providing a "reasonable opportunity" or "reasonable possibility" of viewing the plaintiff's work. 4 Melville B. Nimmer & David Nimmer, Nimmer on Copyright, S 13.02[A], at 13-19 (1999); Jason v. Fonda, 526 F. Supp. 774, 775 (C.D. Cal. 1981), aff'd , 698 F.2d 966 (9th Cir. 1983). We have defined reasonable access as "more than a `bare possibility.' " Jason, 698 F.2d at 967. Nimmer has elaborated on our definition: "Of course, reasonable opportunity as here used, does not encompass any bare possibility in the sense that anything is possible. Access may not be inferred through mere speculation or conjecture. There must be a reasonable possibility of viewing the plaintiff's work -not a bare possibility." 4 Nimmer,S 13.02[A], at 1319. "At times, distinguishing a `bare' possibility from a `reasonable' possibility will present a close question. " Id. at 1320.

    37

    Circumstantial evidence of reasonable access is proven in one of two ways: (1) a particular chain of events is established between the plaintiff's work and the defendant's access to that work (such as through dealings with a publisher or record company), or (2) the plaintiff's work has been widely disseminated. See 4 Nimmer, S 13.02[A], at 13-20-13-21; 2 Paul Goldstein, Copyright: Principles, Law, and Practice S 8.3.1.1., at 90-91 (1989). Goldstein remarks that in music cases the "typically more successful route to proving access requires the plaintiff to show that its work was widely disseminated through sales of sheet music, records, and radio performances." 2 Goldstein, S 8.3.1.1, at 91. Nimmer, however, cautioned that "[c]oncrete cases will pose difficult judgments as to where along the access spectrum a given exploitation falls." 4 Nimmer, S 13.02[A], at 13-22.

    38

    Proof of widespread dissemination is sometimes accompanied by a theory that copyright infringement of a popular song was subconscious. Subconscious copying has been accepted since Learned Hand embraced it in a 1924 music infringement case: "Everything registers somewhere in our memories, and no one can tell what [483] may evoke it . . . . Once it appears that another has in fact used the copyright as the source of this production, he has invaded the author's rights. It is no excuse that in so doing his memory has played him a trick." Fred Fisher, Inc. v. Dillingham, 298 F. 145, 147-48 (S.D.N.Y. 1924). In Fred Fisher, Judge Hand found that the similarities between the songs "amount[ed] to identity" and that the infringement had occurred "probably unconsciously, what he had certainly often heard only a short time before." Id. at 147.

    39

    In modern cases, however, the theory of subconscious copying has been applied to songs that are more remote in time. ABKCO Music, Inc v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd., 722 F.2d 988 (2d Cir. 1983) is the most prominent example. In ABKCO, the Second Circuit affirmed a jury's verdict that former Beatle George Harrison, in writing the song "My Sweet Lord," subconsciously copied The Chiffons' "He's So Fine," which was released six years earlier. See id. at 997, 999. Harrison admitted hearing "He's So Fine" in 1963, when it was number one on the Billboard charts in the United States for five weeks and one of the top 30 hits in England for seven weeks. See id. at 998. The court found:"the evidence, standing alone, `by no means compels the conclusion that there was access . . . it does not compel the conclusion that there was not.' " Id. (quoting Heim v. Universal Pictures Co., 154 F.2d 480, 487 (2d Cir. 1946)). In ABKCO, however, the court found that "the similarity was so striking and where access was found, the remoteness of that access provides no basis for reversal." Id. Furthermore, "the mere lapse of a considerable period of time between the moment of access and the creation of defendant's work does not preclude a finding of copying." 4 Nimmer, S 13.02[A], at 13-20 (citing ABKCO, 722 F.2d at 997-98).

    40

    The Isley Brothers' access argument was based on a theory of widespread dissemination and subconscious copying. They presented evidence supporting four principal ways that Bolton and Goldmark could have had access to the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing":

    41

    (1) Bolton grew up listening to groups such as the Isley Brothers and singing their songs. In 1966, Bolton and Goldmark were 13 and 15, respectively, growing up in Connecticut. Bolton testified that he had been listening to rhythm and blues music by black singers since he was 10 or 11,"appreciated a lot of Black singers," and as a youth was the lead singer in a band that performed "covers" of popular songs by black singers. Bolton also testified that his brother had a "pretty good record collection."

    42

    (2) Three disk jockeys testified that the Isley Brothers' song was widely disseminated on radio and television stations where Bolton and Goldmark grew up. First, Jerry Blavitt testified that the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing" was played five or six times during a 13-week period on the television show, "The Discophonic Scene," which he said aired in Philadelphia, New York, and Hartford-New Haven. Blavitt also testified that he played the song two to three times a week as a disk jockey in Philadelphia and that the station is still playing the song today. Second, Earl Rodney Jones testified that he played the song a minimum of four times a day during an eight to 14 to 24 week period on WVON radio in Chicago, and that the station is still playing the song today. Finally, Jerry Bledsoe testified that he played the song on WUFO radio in Buffalo, and WWRL radio in New York was playing the song in New York in 1967 when he went there. Bledsoe also testified that he played the song twice on a television show, "Soul," which aired in New York and probably in New Haven, Connecticut, where Bolton lived.

    43

    (3) Bolton confessed to being a huge fan of the Isley Brothers and a collector of their music. Ronald Isley testified that when Bolton saw Isley at the Lou Rawls United Negro College Fund Benefit concert in 1988, Bolton said,"I know this guy.[484] I go back with him. I have all his stuff. " Angela Winbush, Isley's wife, testified about that meeting that Bolton said, "This man needs no introduction. I know everything he's done."

    44

    (4) Bolton wondered if he and Goldmark were copying a song by another famous soul singer. Bolton produced a work tape attempting to show that he and Goldmark independently created their version of "Love Is a Wonderful Thing." On that tape of their recording session, Bolton asked Goldmark if the song they were composing was Marvin Gaye's "Some Kind of Wonderful."[1] The district court, in affirming the jury's verdict, wrote about Bolton's Marvin Gaye remark:

    45

    This statement suggests that Bolton was contemplating the possibility that the work he and Goldmark were creating, or at least a portion of it, belonged to someone else, but that Bolton wasn't sure who it belonged to. A reasonable jury can infer that Bolton mistakenly attributed the work to Marvin Gaye, when in reality Bolton was subconsciously drawing on Plaintiff's song.

    46

    The appellants contend that the Isley Brothers' theory of access amounts to a "twenty-five-years-after-the-factsubconscious copying claim." Indeed, this is a more attenuated case of reasonable access and subconscious copying than ABKCO. In this case, the appellants never admitted hearing the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing. " That song never topped the Billboard charts or even made the top 100 for a single week. The song was not released on an album or compact disc until 1991, a year after Bolton and Goldmark wrote their song. Nor did the Isley Brothers ever claim that Bolton's and Goldmark's song is so "strikingly similar" to the Isley Brothers' that proof of access is presumed and need not be proven.

    47

    Despite the weaknesses of the Isley Brothers' theory of reasonable access, the appellants had a full opportunity to present their case to the jury. Three rhythm and blues experts (including legendary Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame) testified that they never heard of the Isley Brothers' "Love is a Wonderful Thing." Furthermore, Bolton produced copies of "TV Guide" from 1966 suggesting that the television shows playing the song never aired in Connecticut. Bolton also pointed out that 129 songs called "Love is a Wonderful Thing" are registered with the Copyright Office, 85 of them before 1964.

    48

    The Isley Brothers' reasonable access arguments are not without merit. Teenagers are generally avid music listeners. It is entirely plausible that two Connecticut teenagers obsessed with rhythm and blues music could remember an Isley Brothers' song that was played on the radio and television for a few weeks, and subconsciously copy it twenty years later. Furthermore, Ronald Isley testified that when they met, Bolton said, "I have all his stuff." Finally, as the district court pointed out, Bolton's remark about Marvin Gaye and "Some Kind of Wonderful" indicates that Bolton believed he may have been copying someone else's song.

    49

    Finally, with regard to access, we are mindful of Judge Frank's words of caution in Arnstein v. Porter: "The judge characterized plaintiff's story as `fantastic'; and in the light of the references in his opinion to defendant's deposition, the judge obviously accepted the defendant's denial of access and copying . . . . [Y]et plaintiff's credibility, even as to those improbabilities, should be left to the jury." Arnstein, 154 F.2d at 469. In this case, Judge Baird heeded Judge Frank's admonition:

    50

    [T]his Court is not in a position to find that the only conclusion that a reasonable jury could have reached is that [485] Defendants did not have access to Plaintiff's song. One must remember that the issue this Court must address is not whether Plaintiff has proven access by a preponderance of evidence, but whether reasonable minds could find that Defendants had a reasonable opportunity to have heard Plaintiff's song before they created their own song.

    51

    Although we might not reach the same conclusion as the jury regarding access, we find that the jury's conclusion about access is supported by substantial evidence. We are not establishing a new standard for access in copyright cases; we are merely saying that we will not disturb the jury's factual and credibility determinations on this issue.

    52
    B. Substantial Similarity
    53

    Under our case law, substantial similarity is inextricably linked to the issue of access. In what is known as the "inverse ratio rule," we "require a lower standard of proof of substantial similarity when a high degree of access is shown." Smith, 84 F.3d at 1218 (citing Shaw v. Lindheim, 919 F.2d 1353, 1361-62 (9th Cir. 1990); Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1172). Furthermore, in the absence of any proof of access, a copyright plaintiff can still make out a case of infringement by showing that the songs were "strikingly similar." See Smith, 84 F.3d at 1220; Baxter v. MCA, Inc., 812 F.2d 421, 423, 424 n.2 (9th Cir. 1987).

    54

    Proof of the substantial similarity is satisfied by a twopart test of extrinsic similarity and intrinsic similarity. See Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1164. Initially, the extrinsic test requires that the plaintiff identify concrete elements based on objective criteria. See Smith, 84 F.3d at 1218; Shaw, 919 F.2d at 1356. The extrinsic test often requires analytical dissection of a work and expert testimony. See Apple Computer, Inc v. Microsoft Corp., 35 F.3d 1435, 1442 (9th Cir. 1994). Once the extrinsic test is satisfied, the factfinder applies the intrinsic test. The intrinsic test is subjective and asks "whether the ordinary, reasonable person would find the total concept and feel of the works to be substantially similar." Pasillas v. McDonald's Corp., 927 F.2d 440, 442 (9th Cir. 1991) (internal quotations omitted).

    55

    We will not second-guess the jury's application of the intrinsic test. See Krofft 562 F.3d at 1166 ("Since the intrinsic test for expression is uniquely suited for determination by the trier of fact, this court must be reluctant to reverse it.") (citations omitted). Furthermore, we will not reverse factual determinations regarding the extrinsic test absent a clearly erroneous application of the law. See id. It is well settled that a jury may find a combination of unprotectible elements to be protectible under the extrinsic test because " `the over-all impact and effect indicate substantial appropriation.' " Id. at 1169 (quoting Malkin v. Dubinsky, 146 F. Supp. 111, 114 (S.D.N.Y. 1956)).

    56
    1. Evidence of Substantial Similarity
    57

    Bolton and Goldmark argue that there was insufficient evidence of substantial similarity because the Isley Brothers' expert musicologist, Dr. Gerald Eskelin, failed to show that there was copying of a combination of unprotectible elements. On the contrary, Eskelin testified that the two songs shared a combination of five unprotectible elements: (1) the title hook phrase (including the lyric, rhythm, and pitch); (2) the shifted cadence; (3) the instrumental figures; (4) the verse/chorus relationship; and (5) the fade ending. Although the appellants presented testimony from their own expert musicologist, Anthony Ricigliano, he conceded that there were similarities between the two songs and that he had not found the combination of unprotectible elements in the Isley Brothers' song "anywhere in the prior art." The jury heard testimony from both of these experts and "found infringement based on a unique compilation of those elements." We refuse to interfere with the jury's credibility determination, nor do we find [486] that the jury's finding of substantial similarity was clearly erroneous.

    58
    2. Independent Creation
    59

    Bolton and Goldmark also contend that their witnesses rebutted the Isley Brothers' prima facie case of copyright infringement with evidence of independent creation. By establishing reasonable access and substantial similarity, a copyright plaintiff creates a presumption of copying. The burden shifts to the defendant to rebut that presumption through proof of independent creation. See Granite Music Corp. v. United Artists Corp., 532 F.2d 718, 721 (9th Cir. 1976).

    60

    The appellants' case of independent creation hinges on three factors: the work tape demonstrating how Bolton and Goldmark created their song, Bolton and Goldmark's history of songwriting, and testimony that their arranger, Walter Afanasieff, contributed two of five unprotectible elements that they allegedly copied. The jury, however, heard the testimony of Bolton, Goldmark, Afanasieff, and Ricigliano about independent creation. The work tape revealed evidence that Bolton may have subconsciously copied a song that he believed to be written by Marvin Gaye. Bolton and Goldmark's history of songwriting presents no direct evidence about this case. And Afanasieff's contributions to Bolton and Goldmark's song were described by the appellants' own expert as "very common." Once again, we refuse to disturb the jury's determination about independent creation. The substantial evidence of copying based on access and substantial similarity was such that a reasonable juror could reject this defense.

    61
    3. Inverse-Ratio Rule
    62

    Although this may be a weak case of access and a circumstantial case of substantial similarity, neither issue warrants reversal of the jury's verdict. An amicus brief on behalf of the recording and motion picture industries warns against watering down the requirements for musical copyright infringement. This case presents no such danger. The Ninth Circuit's inverse-ratio rule requires a lesser showing of substantial similarity if there is a strong showing of access. See Smith, 84 F.3d at 1218. In this case, there was a weak showing of access. We have never held, however, that the inverse ratio rule says a weak showing of access requires a stronger showing of substantial similarity. Nor are we redefining the test of substantial similarity here; we merely find that there was substantial evidence from which the jury could find access and substantial similarity in this case.

    63
    C. Sufficiency of the Deposit Copy
    64

    The appellants argue that the district court did not have jurisdiction over this case because the Isley Brothers failed to register a complete copy of the song upon which the lawsuit was based. Although the 1909 Copyright Act requires the owner to deposit a "complete copy" of the work with the copyright office, our definition of a "complete copy" is broad and deferential: "Absent intent to defraud and prejudice, inaccuracies in copyright registrations do not bar actions for infringement." Harris v. Emus Records Corp. , 734 F.2d 1329, 1335 (9th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted).

    65

    Bolton and Goldmark argue that in 1964 the Isley Brothers deposited sheet music ("deposit copy") of "Love is a Wonderful Thing" that differed from the recorded version of the song. Furthermore, they claimed that the deposit copy does not include the majority of the musical elements that were part of the infringement claim. At trial, the Isley Brothers' expert, Dr. Eskelin, testified that the deposit copy included all of the song's essential elements such as the title hook, chorus, and pitches. Dr. Eskelin even played the deposit copy for the jury on the keyboard. We refuse to disturb the jury's finding that the Isley Brothers deposited a "complete copy " because (1) there was no intent to defraud and prejudice and (2) any inaccuracies [487] in the deposit copy were minor and do not bar the infringement action.

    66
    D. Attribution of Profits
    67

    Sony Music claims that the district court improperly applied an assumption that all profits from Bolton and Goldmark's song go to the Isley Brothers, and that no evidence supported the jury's apportionment of profits. A successful copyright plaintiff is allowed to recover only those profits that are "attributable to infringement." 17 U.S.C.S 504(b) (1994). "In establishing the infringer's profits, the copyright owner is required to present proof only of the infringer's gross revenue, and the infringer is required to prove his or her deductible expenses and the elements of profit attributable to factors other than the copyrighted work." Id. See also Cream Records, Inc. v. Jos. Schlitz Brewing Co., 754 F.2d 826, 828 (9th Cir. 1985) (holding that when all profits do not clearly derive from the infringing material, the copyright owner is not entitled to recover all of the profits); Gaste , 863 F.2d at 1070 (finding that where there is "imprecision in the computation of expenses, a court should err on the side of guaranteeing the plaintiff a full recovery"). Thus, the statutory burden of proof lies with Sony Music to prove what percentage of their profits were not attributable to copying the Isley Brothers'"Love is a Wonderful Thing."

    68

    Sony Music presented evidence that Bolton's "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" produced only 5-10% of the profits from his album, "Time, Love and Tenderness," and that the song's infringing elements resulted in only 10-15% of the profits from the song. The Isley Brothers, however, attacked the credibility of one of Sony Music's experts. Furthermore, they presented evidence that Bolton's infringing song was the album's lead single, that it was released 19 days before the album, and that Bolton engaged in telephone promotion of the song. The jury found that 28% of the album's profits derived from the song, and that 66% of the song's profits resulted from infringing elements.

    69

    We affirm the jury's apportionment of the profits for several reasons. First, the jury instructions adequately conveyed the burden of proof. Second, the burden of proof was on Sony Music, and the jury chose not to believe Sony Music's experts. Finally, a jury verdict apportioning less than 100% of the profits but more than the percentage estimates of Sony Music's experts does not represent clear error.

    70
    E. Deduction of Tax Liability
    71

    Sony Music also argues that the district court erred in allowing Bolton and Goldmark, but not Sony Music, to deduct income taxes due to profits from the album. Whether income taxes are considered "deductible expenses " under S 504(b) is an issue of first impression in this circuit. The Supreme Court held that willful infringers could not deduct income taxes, but it left open the possibility that non-willful infringers could deduct their income taxes from the infringing profits. See L.P. Larson, Jr., Co. v. Wm. Wrigley, Jr., Co., 277 U.S. 97, 99-100 (1928). The circuits are split over whether non-willful infringers such as Bolton, Goldmark, and Sony Music can deduct income taxes from their infringing profits. Compare In Design v. K-Mart Apparel Corp., 13 F.3d 559, 567 (2d Cir. 1994) (allowing the deduction of income taxes) with Schnadig Corp. v. Gaines Mfg. Co., Inc., 620 F.2d 1166, 1169-70 (6th Cir. 1980) (not allowing the deduction of income taxes).

    72

    The Second Circuit allowed the deduction of income taxes because if infringers are liable for pre-tax profits, they may end up paying more money than they ever received. See In Design, 13 F.3d at 567. Under the Second Circuit's rule, the infringer receives a windfall by (1) paying a smaller damages award and (2) deducting the entire, pre-tax award from gross income on a subsequent tax return. The Sixth Circuit rejected the deduction of income taxes because the increased pre-tax [488] profits paid to the copyright holder will be balanced out by an eventual tax refund based on the pre-tax award. See Schnadig, 620 F.2d at 1169-70. Under the Sixth Circuit's rule, the copyright holder receives a windfall by receiving a larger, pre-tax award.

    73

    During the third phase of this trial, the district court adopted the findings of the special master's report regarding the deduction of income taxes. The district court followed the Second Circuit rule and allowed Bolton and Goldmark, as non-willful infringers, to deduct the income taxes and management fees that they paid relating to the infringing song. The district court, however, refused to allow Sony Music to deduct its Net Operating Loss Carry-forward (NOL) because the NOL did not have a "concrete financial impact."

    74

    We uphold the district court's decision to allow non-willful infringers to deduct income taxes, but not NOL. In this case, Bolton and Goldmark actually paid income taxes and management fees on the infringing profits. Sony Music, however, never actually paid income taxes on its infringing profits. Rather, Sony Music claimed it offset nearly $1.7 million in taxes on the infringing profits against its parent company's NOL. No court has ever found that NOL is a deductible expense under S 504(b). Furthermore, we find that the district court's distinctions between taxes actually paid and taxes not actually paid was a fair one. Thus, we affirm the district court's calculation of a $4,218,838 damages award against Sony Music.

    75
    F. Second New Trial Motion
    76

    Finally, Bolton and Goldmark claim that the district court erred in rejecting their second motion for new trial. The district court's denial of a motion for a new trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See Browning-Ferris Indus. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 278 (1989); Scott v. Ross, 140 F.3d 1275, 1281 (9th Cir. 1998). The abuse of discretion standard applies particularly when the district court's denial is based on the motion's untimeliness. See E. & J. Gallo Winery v. Gallo Cattle Co., 967 F.2d 1280, 1294-96 (9th Cir. 1992).

    77

    Bolton and Goldmark's second motion for a new trial was based on the discovery of new evidence that disputed the Isley Brothers' claim of authorship. A day before the deadline for post-trial motions, the appellees discovered evidence alleging that the Turkcords, a group that played with the Isley Brothers in the mid-1960s, claimed to have written the 1964 song, "Love is a Wonderful Thing." Bolton and Goldmark did not immediately notify the district court of this new evidence. Instead, fourteen days after the deadline for post-trial motions had passed, they filed an additional motion for new trial. The district court rejected the second motion for new trial as untimely filed.

    78

    We affirm the district court's denial of the second motion for new trial because the evidence, if true, goes at most to the weight and credibility of the evidence before the jury. At trial, Ronald Isley claimed to have written the song with the deceased guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix. (As a young man, Hendrix played in the Isley Brothers' band.) The Turkcords' claims of authorship are dubious for several reasons. The Turkcords knew about the re-release of "Love is a Wonderful Thing" by United Artists in 1991, yet they claimed that the Isley Brothers had agreed to share the song's royalties with them only after hearing about the damages award in this case on "Inside Edition." Furthermore, Bolton and Goldmark knew about this new evidence before the deadline for the post-trial motions, yet they did not immediately notify the district court.

    79

    Even if the Turkcords' claims of authorship are true, a new trial is not warranted in the interests of justice because the Isley Brothers' copyright ownership is not jeopardized. Registration is [489] prima facie evidence of the validity of a copyright. See 17 U.S.C. S 410(c) (1994). This presumption can be rebutted by the defendant's showing that the plaintiff's work is not original. See North Coast Indus. v. Jason Maxwell, Inc., 972 F.2d 1031, 1033 (9th Cir. 1992). North Coast 's definition of originality is broad: " `All that is needed to satisfy both the Constitution and the statute is that the "author " contributed something more than a "merely trivial" variation, something recognizably "his own." Originality in this context means "little more than a prohibition of actual copying." ' " Id. (quoting Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1163 n.5 (quoting Alfred Bell & Co. v. Catalda Fine Arts, 191 F.2d 99, 102-03 (2d Cir. 1951))). See also Kamar Int'l Inc. v. Russ Berrie and Co., 657 F.2d 1059, 1061 (9th Cir. 1981) (employing a broad definition of originality relating to toy stuffed animals).

    80

    In this case, the Isley Brothers undoubtedly contributed something original to "Love is a Wonderful Thing. " Their proteges, the Turkcords, purportedly wrote the song, then gave the Isley Brothers' permission to record it after the voice of the Turkcords' lead singer allegedly "cracked. " Members of the Turkcords allegedly sang back-up on the record. Yet the Turkcords never copyrighted their song. They relied on the Isley Brothers' alleged promise to share the royalties with them.

    81

    The district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Bolton and Goldmark's second motion for a new trial based on this evidence. The Turkcords' claims of authorship would not have affected the outcome of the case and at most go to the weight and credibility of the evidence. Bolton and Goldmark's second motion was a last-ditch attempt to discredit the jury's verdict. The district court heard all of the evidence in this case, instructed the jury on the applicable law, yet refused to reverse the jury's verdict pursuant to motion for a judgment as a matter of law. Having found that the law was properly applied in this case, we leave the district court's decisions and the jury's credibility determinations undisturbed.

    82

    AFFIRMED.

    83

    [1] Marvin Gaye also referred to the song's chorus, "She's some kind of wonderful," in his song, "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby." See Marvin Gaye, Too Busy Thinking About My Baby, on MPG, (Motown 1969). 

  • 2 Steinberg v. Columbia Pictures Industries (1987)

    1

    663 F.Supp. 706 (1987)

    2
    Saul STEINBERG, Plaintiff,
    v.
    COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, INC.; RCA Corporation; Diener Hauser Bates Co., Inc.; Columbia Pictures International Corporation; Columbia Pictures Home Video, Inc.; RCA International Audio-Visuals, Inc.; CPT Holdings, Inc.; Gold Col Productions, Inc.; RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video; RCA/Columbia Pictures International Video; the New York Times Company; New York News, Inc.; Newsday, Inc.; News Group Publications, Inc.; the Times Mirror Company; the Hearst Corporation; Chicago Tribune Company; Field Enterprises, Inc.; the Washington Post Co.; A.H. Belo Corporation; Globe Newspaper Company; Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc.; A.S. Abell Publishing Co.; and Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc., Defendants.
    Saul STEINBERG, Plaintiff,
    v.
    COLUMBIA-DELPHI PRODUCTIONS, Columbia-Delphi Productions II, Delphi Film Associates, Delphi Film Associates II, News Group Boston, Inc., and News Group Chicago, Inc., Defendants.

    Nos. 84 Civ. 9208 (LLS), 87 Civ. 1750 (LLS).

    3

    United States District Court, S.D. New York.

    June 24, 1987.

    4

    [707] [708] Rembar & Curtis, New York City, for plaintiff; Charles Rembar, Frank R. Curtis, Mark W. Budwig, of counsel.

    5

    Pryor, Cashman, Sherman & Flynn, New York City, for defendants; Stephen F. Huff, Philip R. Hoffman, Tom J. Ferber, of counsel.

    6
    OPINION AND ORDER
    7
    STANTON, District Judge.
    8

    In these actions for copyright infringement, plaintiff Saul Steinberg is suing the producers, promoters, distributors and advertisers of the movie "Moscow on the Hudson" ("Moscow"). Steinberg is an artist whose fame derives in part from cartoons and illustrations he has drawn for The New Yorker magazine. Defendant Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. (Columbia) is in the business of producing, promoting and distributing motion pictures, including "Moscow." Defendant RCA Corporation (RCA) was involved with Columbia in promoting and distributing the home video version of "Moscow," and defendant Diener Hauser Bates Co. (DHB) acted as an advertising agent for "Moscow." The other defendants were added to the complaint pursuant to a memorandum decision of this court dated November 17, 1986. These defendants fall into two categories: (1) affiliates of Columbia and RCA that were involved in the distribution of "Moscow" here and/or abroad, and (2) owners of major newspapers that published the allegedly infringing advertisement.

    9

    The defendants in the second-captioned action either are joint ventures affiliated with Columbia or are newspapers that published the allegedly infringing advertisement for "Moscow." This action was consolidated with the first by stipulation dated April 3, 1987.

    10

    Plaintiff alleges that defendants' promotional poster for "Moscow" infringes his copyright on an illustration that he drew [709] for The New Yorker and that appeared on the cover of the March 29, 1976 issue of the magazine, in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-810. Defendants deny this allegation and assert the affirmative defenses of fair use as a parody, estoppel and laches.

    11

    Defendants have moved, and plaintiff has cross-moved, for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this court rejects defendants' asserted defenses and grants summary judgment on the issue of copying to plaintiff.

    12
    I
    13

    To grant summary judgment, Fed.R. Civ.P. 56 requires a court to find that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." In reaching its decision, the court must "assess whether there are any factual issues to be tried, while resolving ambiguities and drawing reasonable inferences against the moving party." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11 (2d Cir.1986), citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

    14

    Summary judgment is often disfavored in copyright cases, for courts are generally reluctant to make subjective comparisons and determinations. Hoehling v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 618 F.2d 972, 977 (2d Cir.1980), citing Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 474 (2d Cir.1946). Recently, however, this circuit has "recognized that a court may determine non-infringement as a matter of law on a motion for summary judgment." Warner Brothers v. American Broadcasting Cos., 720 F.2d 231, 240 (2d Cir.1983), quoting Durham Industries, Inc. v. Tomy Corp., 630 F.2d 905, 918 (2d Cir.1980). See also Hoehling, 618 F.2d at 977; Walker v. Time-Life Films, Inc., 615 F.Supp. 430, 434 (S.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 784 F.2d 44 (2d Cir.1986), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 106 S.Ct. 2278, 90 L.Ed.2d 721 (1986). "When the evidence is so overwhelming that a court would be justified in ordering a directed verdict at trial, it is proper to grant summary judgment." Silverman v. CBS Inc., 632 F.Supp. 1344, 1352 (S.D.N.Y.1986) (awarding summary judgment to defendant on counterclaim of copyright infringement).

    15

    The voluminous submissions that accompanied these cross-motions leave no factual issues concerning which further evidence is likely to be presented at a trial. Moreover, the factual determinations necessary to this decision do not involve conflicts in testimony that would depend for their resolution on an assessment of witness credibility. In addition, this case is different from most copyright infringement actions, in which it is preferable to leave the determination of the issue to a jury: each party has implied that its case is complete by moving for summary judgment, and as neither side has requested a jury, the court would be the trier of fact at trial. Finally, the interests of judicial economy are also served by deciding the case at its present stage. Summary judgment is therefore appropriate.

    16
    II
    17

    The essential facts are not disputed by the parties despite their disagreements on nonessential matters. On March 29, 1976, The New Yorker published as a cover illustration the work at issue in this suit, widely known as a parochial New Yorker's view of the world. The magazine registered this illustration with the United States Copyright Office and subsequently assigned the copyright to Steinberg. Approximately three months later, plaintiff and The New Yorker entered into an agreement to print and sell a certain number of posters of the cover illustration.

    18

    It is undisputed that unauthorized duplications of the poster were made and distributed by unknown persons, although the parties disagree on the extent to which plaintiff attempted to prevent the distribution of those counterfeits. Plaintiff has also conceded that numerous posters have been created and published depicting other localities in the same manner that he depicted New York in his illustration. These facts, however, are irrelevant to the merits of this case, which concerns only the relationship [710] between plaintiff's and defendants' illustrations.

    19

    Defendants' illustration was created to advertise the movie "Moscow on the Hudson," which recounts the adventures of a Muscovite who defects in New York. In designing this illustration, Columbia's executive art director, Kevin Nolan, has admitted that he specifically referred to Steinberg's poster, and indeed, that he purchased it and hung it, among others, in his office. Furthermore, Nolan explicitly directed the outside artist whom he retained to execute his design, Craig Nelson, to use Steinberg's poster to achieve a more recognizably New York look. Indeed, Nelson acknowledged having used the facade of one particular edifice, at Nolan's suggestion that it would render his drawing more "New York-ish." Curtis Affidavit ¶ 28(c). While the two buildings are not identical, they are so similar that it is impossible, especially in view of the artist's testimony, not to find that defendants' impermissibly copied plaintiff's.[1]

    20

    To decide the issue of infringement, it is necessary to consider the posters themselves. Steinberg's illustration presents a bird's eye view across a portion of the western edge of Manhattan, past the Hudson River and a telescoped version of the rest of the United States and the Pacific Ocean, to a red strip of horizon, beneath which are three flat land masses labeled China, Japan and Russia. The name of the magazine, in The New Yorker's usual typeface, occupies the top fifth of the poster, beneath a thin band of blue wash representing a stylized sky.

    21

    The parts of the poster beyond New York are minimalized, to symbolize a New Yorker's myopic view of the centrality of his city to the world. The entire United States west of the Hudson River, for example, is reduced to a brown strip labeled "Jersey," together with a light green trapezoid with a few rudimentary rock outcroppings and the names of only seven cities and two states scattered across it. The few blocks of Manhattan, by contrast, are depicted and colored in detail. The four square blocks of the city, which occupy the whole lower half of the poster, include numerous buildings, pedestrians and cars, as well as parking lots and lamp posts, with water towers atop a few of the buildings. The whimsical, sketchy style and spiky lettering are recognizable as Steinberg's.

    22

    The "Moscow" illustration depicts the three main characters of the film on the lower third of their poster, superimposed on a bird's eye view of New York City, and continues eastward across Manhattan and the Atlantic Ocean, past a rudimentary evocation of Europe, to a clump of recognizably Russian-styled buildings on the horizon, labeled "Moscow." The movie credits appear over the lower portion of the characters. The central part of the poster depicts approximately four New York city blocks, with fairly detailed buildings, pedestrians and vehicles, a parking lot, and some water towers and lamp posts. Columbia's artist added a few New York landmarks at apparently random places in his illustration, apparently to render the locale more easily recognizable. Beyond the blue strip labeled "Atlantic Ocean," Europe is represented by London, Paris and Rome, each anchored by a single landmark (although the landmark used for Rome is the Leaning Tower of Pisa).

    23

    The horizon behind Moscow is delineated by a red crayoned strip, above which are the title of the movie and a brief textual introduction to the plot. The poster is crowned by a thin strip of blue wash, apparently a stylization of the sky. This poster is executed in a blend of styles: the three characters, whose likenesses were copied from a photograph, have realistic faces and somewhat sketchy clothing, and the city blocks are drawn in a fairly detailed but sketchy style. The lettering on the drawing is spiky, in block-printed handwritten capital letters substantially identical to plaintiff's, while the printed texts at the top and bottom of the poster are in the [711] typeface commonly associated with The New Yorker magazine.[2]

    24
    III
    25

    To succeed in a copyright infringement action, a plaintiff must prove ownership of the copyright and copying by the defendant. Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 90 (2d Cir.1976); Durham Industries, 630 F.2d at 911; Novelty Textile Mills, Inc. v. Joan Fabrics Corp., 558 F.2d 1090, 1092 (2d Cir.1977). There is no substantial dispute concerning plaintiff's ownership of a valid copyright in his illustration. Therefore, in order to prevail on liability, plaintiff need establish only the second element of the cause of action.

    26

    "Because of the inherent difficulty in obtaining direct evidence of copying, it is usually proved by circumstantial evidence of access to the copyrighted work and substantial similarities as to protectible material in the two works." Reyher, 533 F.2d at 90, citing Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir.1946). See also Novelty Textile Mills, 558 F.2d at 1092. "Of course, if there are no similarities, no amount of evidence of access will suffice to prove copying." Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d at 468. See also Novelty Textile Mills, 558 F.2d at 1092 n. 2.

    27

    Defendants' access to plaintiff's illustration is established beyond peradventure. Therefore, the sole issue remaining with respect to liability is whether there is such substantial similarity between the copyrighted and accused works as to establish a violation of plaintiff's copyright. The central issue of "substantial similarity," which can be considered a close question of fact, may also validly be decided as a question of law. Berkic v. Crichton, 761 F.2d 1289, 1292 (9th Cir.1985), citing Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., 562 F.2d 1157 (9th Cir.1977).

    28

    "Substantial similarity" is an elusive concept. This circuit has recently recognized that

    29

    [t]he "substantial similarity" that supports an inference of copying sufficient to establish infringement of a copyright is not a concept familiar to the public at large. It is a term to be used in a courtroom to strike a delicate balance between the protection to which authors are entitled under an act of Congress and the freedom that exists for all others to create their works outside the area protected by infringement.

    30

    Warner Bros., 720 F.2d at 245.

    31

    The definition of "substantial similarity" in this circuit is "whether an average lay observer would recognize the alleged copy as having been appropriated from the copyrighted work." Ideal Toy Corp. v. Fab-Lu Ltd., 360 F.2d 1021, 1022 (2d Cir.1966); Silverman v. CBS, Inc., 632 F.Supp. at 1351-52. A plaintiff need no longer meet the severe "ordinary observer" test established by Judge Learned Hand in Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487 (2d Cir.1960). Uneeda Doll Co., Inc. v. Regent Baby Products Corp., 355 F.Supp. 438, 450 (E.D.N.Y.1972). Under Judge Hand's formulation, there would be substantial similarity only where "the ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard their aesthetic appeal as the same." 274 F.2d at 489.

    32

    Moreover, it is now recognized that "[t]he copying need not be of every detail so long as the copy is substantially similar to the copyrighted work." Comptone Co. v. Rayex Corp., 251 F.2d 487, 488 (2d Cir. 1958). See also Durham Industries, 630 F.2d at 911-12; Novelty Textile Mills, 558 F.2d at 1092-93.

    33

    In determining whether there is substantial similarity between two works, it is crucial to distinguish between an idea and its expression. It is an axiom of copyright law, established in the case law and since codified at 17 U.S.C. § 102(b), that only the [712] particular expression of an idea is protectible, while the idea itself is not. See, e.g., Durham Industries, 630 F.2d at 912; Reyher, 533 F.2d at 90, citing Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217, 74 S.Ct. 460, 470, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954); Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. (11 Otto) 99, 25 L.Ed. 841 (1879). See also Warner Bros., 720 F.2d at 239.

    34

    "The idea/expression distinction, although an imprecise tool, has not been abandoned because we have as yet discovered no better way to reconcile the two competing societal interests that provide the rationale for the granting of and restrictions on copyright protection," namely, both rewarding individual ingenuity, and nevertheless allowing progress and improvements based on the same subject matter by others than the original author. Durham Industries, 630 F.2d at 912, quoting Reyher, 533 F.2d at 90.

    35

    There is no dispute that defendants cannot be held liable for using the idea of a map of the world from an egocentrically myopic perspective. No rigid principle has been developed, however, to ascertain when one has gone beyond the idea to the expression, and "[d]ecisions must therefore inevitably be ad hoc." Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir.1960) (L. Hand, J.). As Judge Frankel once observed, "Good eyes and common sense may be as useful as deep study of reported and unreported cases, which themselves are tied to highly particularized facts." Couleur International Ltd. v. Opulent Fabrics, Inc., 330 F.Supp. 152, 153 (S.D.N.Y.1971).

    36

    Even at first glance, one can see the striking stylistic relationship between the posters, and since style is one ingredient of "expression," this relationship is significant. Defendants' illustration was executed in the sketchy, whimsical style that has become one of Steinberg's hallmarks. Both illustrations represent a bird's eye view across the edge of Manhattan and a river bordering New York City to the world beyond. Both depict approximately four city blocks in detail and become increasingly minimalist as the design recedes into the background. Both use the device of a narrow band of blue wash across the top of the poster to represent the sky, and both delineate the horizon with a band of primary red.[3]

    37

    The strongest similarity is evident in the rendering of the New York City blocks. Both artists chose a vantage point that looks directly down a wide two-way cross street that intersects two avenues before reaching a river. Despite defendants' protestations, this is not an inevitable way of depicting blocks in a city with a grid-like street system, particularly since most New York City cross streets are one-way. Since even a photograph may be copyrighted because "no photograph, however simple, can be unaffected by the personal influence of the author," Time Inc. v. Bernard Geis Assoc., 293 F.Supp. 130, 141 (S.D.N.Y. 1968), quoting Bleistein, supra, one can hardly gainsay the right of an artist to protect his choice of perspective and layout in a drawing, especially in conjunction with the overall concept and individual details. Indeed, the fact that defendants changed the names of the streets while retaining the same graphic depiction weakens their case: had they intended their illustration realistically to depict the streets labeled on the poster, their four city blocks would not so closely resemble plaintiff's four city blocks. Moreover, their argument that they intended the jumble of streets and landmarks and buildings to symbolize their Muscovite protagonist's confusion in a new city does not detract from the strong similarity between their poster and Steinberg's.

    38

    [713] While not all of the details are identical, many of them could be mistaken for one another; for example, the depiction of the water towers, and the cars, and the red sign above a parking lot, and even many of the individual buildings. The shapes, windows, and configurations of various edifices are substantially similar. The ornaments, facades and details of Steinberg's buildings appear in defendants', although occasionally at other locations. In this context, it is significant that Steinberg did not depict any buildings actually erected in New York; rather, he was inspired by the general appearance of the structures on the West Side of Manhattan to create his own New York-ish structures. Thus, the similarity between the buildings depicted in the "Moscow" and Steinberg posters cannot be explained by an assertion that the artists happened to choose the same buildings to draw. The close similarity can be explained only by the defendants' artist having copied the plaintiff's work. Similarly, the locations and size, the errors and anomalies of Steinberg's shadows and streetlight, are meticulously imitated.

    39

    In addition, the Columbia artist's use of the childlike, spiky block print that has become one of Steinberg's hallmarks to letter the names of the streets in the "Moscow" poster can be explained only as copying. There is no inherent justification for using this style of lettering to label New York City streets as it is associated with New York only through Steinberg's poster.

    40

    While defendants' poster shows the city of Moscow on the horizon in far greater detail than anything is depicted in the background of plaintiff's illustration, this fact alone cannot alter the conclusion. "Substantial similarity" does not require identity, and "duplication or near identity is not necessary to establish infringement." Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1167. Neither the depiction of Moscow, nor the eastward perspective, nor the presence of randomly scattered New York City landmarks in defendants' poster suffices to eliminate the substantial similarity between the posters. As Judge Learned Hand wrote, "no plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate." Sheldon v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corp., 81 F.2d 49, 56 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 298 U.S. 669, 56 S.Ct. 835, 80 L.Ed. 1392 (1936).

    41

    Defendants argue that their poster could not infringe plaintiff's copyright because only a small proportion of its design could possibly be considered similar. This argument is both factually and legally without merit. "[A] copyright infringement may occur by reason of a substantial similarity that involves only a small portion of each work." Burroughs v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., 683 F.2d 610, 624 n. 14 (2d Cir.1982). Moreover, this case involves the entire protected work and an iconographically, as well as proportionately, significant portion of the allegedly infringing work. Cf. Mattel, Inc. v. Azrak-Hamway Intern., Inc., 724 F.2d 357, 360 (2d Cir.1983); Elsmere Music, Inc. v. National Broadcasting Co., 482 F.Supp. 741, 744 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 623 F.2d 252 (2d Cir. 1980) (taking small part of protected work can violate copyright).

    42

    The process by which defendants' poster was created also undermines this argument. The "map," that is, the portion about which plaintiff is complaining, was designed separately from the rest of the poster. The likenesses of the three main characters, which were copied from a photograph, and the blocks of text were superimposed on the completed map. Nelson Deposition at 21-22; Nolan Deposition at 28.

    43

    I also reject defendants' argument that any similarities between the works are unprotectible scenes a faire, or "incidents, characters or settings which, as a practical matter, are indispensable or standard in the treatment of a given topic." Walker, 615 F.Supp. at 436. See also Reyher, 533 F.2d at 92. It is undeniable that a drawing of New York City blocks could be expected to include buildings, pedestrians, vehicles, lampposts and water towers. Plaintiff, however, does not complain of defendants' mere use of these elements in their poster; rather, his complaint is that defendants [714] copied his expression of those elements of a street scene.

    44

    While evidence of independent creation by the defendants would rebut plaintiff's prima facie case, "the absence of any countervailing evidence of creation independent of the copyrighted source may well render clearly erroneous a finding that there was not copying." Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Co., 429 F.2d 1106, 1110 (9th Cir.1970). See also Novelty Textile Mills, 558 F.2d at 1092 n. 2.

    45

    Moreover, it is generally recognized that "... since a very high degree of similarity is required in order to dispense with proof of access, it must logically follow that where proof of access is offered, the required degree of similarity may be somewhat less than would be necessary in the absence of such proof." 2 Nimmer § 143.4 at 634, quoted in Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1172. As defendants have conceded access to plaintiff's copyrighted illustration, a somewhat lesser degree of similarity suffices to establish a copyright infringement than might otherwise be required. Here, however, the demonstrable similarities are such that proof of access, although in fact conceded, is almost unnecessary.

    46
    IV
    47

    I find meritless defendants' assertion that, to the extent that the "Moscow" poster evokes Steinberg's, that evocation is justified under the parody branch of the "fair use" doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107. As this circuit has held, the copyrighted work must be "at least in part an object of the parody," MCA, Inc. v. Wilson, 677 F.2d 180, 185 (2d Cir.1981). The record does not support a claim that defendants intended to satirize plaintiff's illustration; indeed, the deposition testimony of Columbia's executive art director tends to contradict such a claim. Moreover, an assertion that defendants consciously parodied the idea of a parochial view of the world is immaterial: ideas are not protected by copyright, and the infringement alleged is of Steinberg's particular expression of that idea. Defendants' variation on the visual joke of plaintiff's illustration does not, without an element of humor aimed at some aspect of the illustration itself, render it a parody and therefore a fair use of plaintiff's work.

    48

    In codifying the case law on determining whether one work constitutes a fair use of another, Congress instructed the courts to consider certain factors, the first of which is whether the intended use of the allegedly infringing work is "of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes." 17 U.S.C. § 107(1). As the Second Circuit said in a different artistic context, "We are not prepared to hold that a commercial [artist] can plagiarize a ... copyrighted [work], substitute [certain elements] of his own, [produce] it for commercial gain, and then escape liability by calling the end result a parody or satire on the mores of society." MCA, Inc., 677 F.2d at 185.

    49

    In analyzing the commercial or noncommercial nature of the "Moscow" poster, it is useful to distinguish between two conceptually different situations: advertising material that promotes a parody of a copyrighted work, and advertising material that itself infringes a copyright. In the first case, the fact that the advertisement uses elements of the copyrighted work does not necessarily mean that it infringes the copyright, if the product that it advertises constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted work. See, e.g., Warner Bros., 720 F.2d at 242-44 (promotional broadcasts for television series legally parodying the Superman comic strip character did not infringe copyright in Superman character).

    50

    In the second case, the work being advertised bears no relationship to the copyrighted work, but the advertisement itself infringes the copyright. In such a case, the owners of the copyright can prevent the advertisement from being used. As the Second Circuit has said, "[n]o matter how well known a copyrighted phrase becomes, its author is entitled to guard against its appropriation to promote the sale of commercial products." Warner Bros., 720 F.2d at 242. See, e.g., D.C. Comics, Inc. v. Crazy Eddie, Inc., 205 [715] U.S.P.Q. 1177 (S.D.N.Y.1979) (discount electronics chain not permitted to advertise its stores using parody of well-known lines associated with copyrighted Superman character).

    51

    This situation fits the second case. Neither the "Moscow" movie nor the poster was designed to be a parody of the Steinberg illustration. The poster merely borrowed numerous elements from Steinberg to create an appealing advertisement to promote an unrelated commercial product, the movie. No parody of the illustration is involved, and defendants are not entitled to the protection of the parody branch of the fair use doctrine.

    52

    The other factors mandated by 17 U.S.C. § 107 do nothing to mitigate this determination. The copyrighted work at issue is an artistic creation, 17 U.S.C. § 107(2), a very substantial portion of which was appropriated in the defendants' work, 17 U.S.C. § 107(3). As for the value of the copyrighted work, 17 U.S.C. § 107(4), plaintiff submitted testimony to the court to show that his reputation was injured by having the public believe that he voluntarily lent his work to a profit-making enterprise.

    53
    V
    54

    In their motion, defendants raised the affirmative defenses of estoppel and laches. Although Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c) generally requires affirmative defenses to be pleaded, courts have been more lenient in the context of motions for summary judgment. "[A]bsent prejudice to the plaintiff, a defendant may raise an affirmative defense in a motion for summary judgment for the first time." Rivera v. Anaya, 726 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir.1984). See 2A, 6 J. Moore, Moore's Federal Practice ¶¶ 8.28, 56.02[2], 56.17[4] (2d ed. 1986). It is therefore appropriate for this court to consider these defenses on the merits.

    55

    Defendants base their assertions of these equitable defenses on the following factual claims: (1) plaintiff's alleged "deliberate inaction" for eight years in the face of numerous counterfeits of his poster and adaptations of his idea to various other localities; (2) plaintiff's alleged failure to act in response to the newspaper advertisements that appeared to promote "Moscow"; and (3) defendants' assertion that Steinberg waited six months before even complaining to Columbia about their alleged infringement of his copyright on the poster, which defendants claim in their brief was a tactic on plaintiff's part to maximize the damages he hoped to receive.

    56

    The record, however, does not support defendants' claims. First, Steinberg specifically requested that The New Yorker magazine attempt to identify the sources of the counterfeit posters and prevent their continued distribution. As for the so-called adaptations of Steinberg's idea, there is no evidence that they infringed his copyright or that anyone ever believed that they did. As plaintiff freely and necessarily admits, the law does not protect an idea, but only the specific expression of that idea. The examples that defendants use to support their defense can at most be considered derivative of Steinberg's idea; none is a close copy of the poster itself, as defendants' is. Finally, defendants' last two assertions are rebutted by evidence that The New Yorker protested to The New York Times on plaintiff's behalf and at his request when "Moscow" opened, and that Columbia learned of this protest only a few weeks later.

    57

    Moreover, even were defendants' factual assertions borne out by the record, their equitable defenses would have to be rejected because they have failed to establish the elements of either estoppel or laches.

    58

    "A party seeking to invoke the doctrine of estoppel must plead and prove each of the essential elements: (1) a representation of fact ...; (2) rightful reliance thereon; and (3) injury or damage ... resulting from denial by the party making the representation." Galvez v. Local 804 Welfare Trust Fund, 543 F.Supp. 316, 317 (E.D.N. Y.1982), citing Haeberle v. Board of Trustees, 624 F.2d 1132 (2d Cir.1980).

    59

    Defendants have not established even the first of these elements. They argue that plaintiff's alleged silence [716] during the course of their advertisement campaign constitutes a sufficient representation of his acquiescence to meet the first requirement of the doctrine. As noted above, however, plaintiff did not remain silent, and the record shows that defendants, despite their awareness of his objections, continued to promote the film with the same advertisements and subsequently released a videocassette version of "Moscow" using the same promotional design. See Lottie Joplin Thomas Trust v. Crown Publishers, 592 F.2d 651, 655 (2d Cir.1978) (defense of estoppel falls where defendants fail to produce any evidence of detrimental reliance on plaintiff's alleged representations). Defendants overlook, moreover, that silence or inaction, in the absence of any duty or relationship between the parties, cannot give rise to an estoppel. Whiting Corp. v. Home Ins. Co., 516 F.Supp. 643, 656 (S.D.N.Y.1981). Cf. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Stokely-Van Camp, Inc., 522 F.2d 369, 378 (2d Cir.1975). No such duty existed here.

    60

    Defendants have likewise failed to establish the defense of laches. The party asserting laches must show that the opposing party "did not assert her or their rights diligently, and that such asserted lack of diligence ... resulted in prejudice to them." Lottie Joplin, 592 F.2d at 655, citing, inter alia, Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 282, 81 S.Ct. 534, 543, 5 L.Ed.2d 551 (1961). In Lottie Joplin, the Second Circuit held that a gap of approximately half a year between the publication of the allegedly infringing work and the institution of the lawsuit did not constitute a delay sufficient to establish a claim of laches. In this case, defendants were informed within weeks of plaintiff's disapproval of their poster; moreover, they have presented no evidence that, even if they had acknowledged any awareness of plaintiff's reaction, they would in any way have modified their subsequent actions. Consequently, they have failed to prove prejudice to themselves.

    61
    VI
    62

    For the reasons set out above, summary judgment is granted to plaintiffs as to copying.

    63

    A pretrial conference will be held on September 11, 1987, at 2 o'clock P.M., in Courtroom 35, to determine the proper measure and allocation of damages, other appropriate matters, and the parties' proposed schedule of further proceedings. The parties are to confer in advance of this conference, with the goal of reaching agreement on these matters, if possible.

    64

    [1] Nolan claimed also to have been inspired by some of the posters that were inspired by Steinberg's; such secondary inspiration, however, is irrelevant to whether or not the "Moscow" poster infringes plaintiff's copyright by having impermissibly copied it.

    65

    [2] The typeface is not a subject of copyright, but the similarity reinforces the impression that defendants copied plaintiff's illustration.

    66

    [3] Defendants claim that since this use of thin bands of primary colors is a traditional Japanese technique, their adoption of it cannot infringe Steinberg's copyright. This argument ignores the principle that while "[o]thers are free to copy the original ... [t]hey are not free to copy the copy." Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239, 250, 23 S.Ct. 298, 300, 47 L.Ed. 460 (1903) (Holmes, J.). Cf. Dave Grossman Designs, Inc. v. Bortin, 347 F.Supp. 1150, 1156-57 (N.D.Ill.1972) (an artist may use the same subject and style as another "so long as the second artist does not substantially copy [the first artist's] specific expression of his idea.")

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