Brownstein v. Lindsay, No. 12-2506 (3d Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Brownstein and Lindsay worked at LSDI, a direct mailing list company. In 1993 Lindsay began developing rules for categorizing names by ethnicity. Lindsay enlisted Brownstein to create computer programs that did everything from rewriting names into proper data format to turning the rules into computer code. The combined system of Lindsay’s rules and Brownstein’s computer code was called the LCID. Lindsay received a copyright registration for the rules in 1996, entitled “Ethnic Determinant System — Knowledge and Rule/Exception Basis,” including a copy of Brownstein’s programs as a “deposit copy” for the registration, 17 U.S.C. 407(a) and referencing associated “computer process” and “codes.” Lindsay listed herself as the only author. She gave Brownstein a copy of the registrations. He claims that he never reviewed them. Subsequently, LSDI demanded that Lindsay turnover the copyright registration. Lindsay and Brownstein left LSDI in 1997. Lindsay handled all business affairs and, over the next several years, executed several agreements to form new business entities to promote and transfer ownership of the LCID. There were several lawsuits with LSDI. In 2009, Brownstein left on bad terms, filed an oppressed shareholder lawsuit, and sought his own copyright registrations. He then sought a declaratory judgment of joint authorship of LCID under the Copyright Act. The district court found the claim time-barred and insufficient on the merits. The Third Circuit remanded, holding that an authorship claim accrues when a plaintiff’s authorship has been “expressly repudiated” and that courts have no authority to cancel copyright registrations.