16 Casa Duse, LLC v. Merkin, No. 13-3865 (2d Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Defendant, a film director, producer, and editor, appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, a film production company, on its copyright and state-law claims related to the film entitled "Heads Up." At issue was whether a contributor to a creative work whose contributions are inseparable from, and integrated into, the work maintain a copyright interest in his or her contributions alone. Determining that the court had jurisdiction over the merits of the appeal, the court concluded that, on the facts of the present case, the Copyright Actʹs, 17 U.S.C. 102, terms, structure, and history support the conclusion that defendantʹs contributions to the film do not themselves constitute a ʺwork of authorshipʺ amenable to copyright protection. The court concluded that a directorʹs contribution to an integrated ʺwork of authorshipʺ such as a film is not itself a ʺwork of authorshipʺ subject to its own copyright protection. Therefore, defendant did not obtain and does not possess a copyright in his directorial contributions to the finished film. The court agreed with the district court that in this case, plaintiff was the dominant author of the film and concluded that plaintiff owns the copyright in the finished film and its prior versions, including the disputed ʺraw film footage.ʺ Finally, the court disagreed with the district court's conclusion that defendant's interference with plaintiff's planned screening and post-screening reception constituted tortious interference under New York law. Rather, the court concluded that the undisputed material facts require judgment as a matter of law in defendantʹs favor. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions and for the district court to reexamine its award of costs and attorneyʹs fees, and for such other proceedings as are warranted.