Monday, February 12, 2007

Decision in the Joyce "Copyright Misuse" Case

Joyce scholar Carol Shloss's complaint against the Joyce estate has survived a motion to dismiss. Much of the decision has to do with the question whether there was a sufficient "case or controversy" for the court to get involved (the estate apparently agreed not to sue over the website at issue "as it existed in 2005"), but, significantly, also includes this on the copyright "misuse" cause of action:

"Plaintiff undertook to write a scholarly work on Lucia Joyce -- the type of creativity that the copyright laws exist to facilitate. Defendants' alleged actions significantly undermined the copyright policy of 'promoting invention and creative expression,' as Plaintiff was allegedly intimidated from using (1) non-copyrightable fact works such as medical records and (2) works to which Defendants did not own or control copyrights, such as letters written by third parties. The Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a nexus between Defendants' actions and the Copyright Act's public policy of promoting creative expression to support a cause of action for copyright misuse."

The decision is here. Larry Lessig, who is representing Shloss, is, needless to say, thrilled. Fellow IP law prof Mike Madison is pleased too. For background on the case, see my earlier post here as well as this terrific New Yorker piece from last summer.