United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Cramer commenced this copyright infringement action after
Hidden City Philadelphia posted an online publication that
included a photograph Cramer took of Cecil Baker. Before the
Court is Hidden City's motion for summary judgment and
for sanctions. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
will grant in part and deny in part Hidden City's motion.
a professional photographer working for Wonderful Machine,
Inc., photographed Baker, an architect. (Cramer Decl.
¶¶ 2, 4.) The photograph was registered with the
U.S. Copyright Office to Wonderful Machine in October 2008.
(Id. Ex. B.)
taking the photograph, Cramer emailed Baker in December 2008,
providing a link to “all of the photos from the
Residential Architect photo shoot.” (Def.'s Mem. of
Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E.) Baker asked for
copies of the photograph around January 2009, and someone
named Jess Dudley sent Baker correspondence on Wonderful
Machine letterhead, enclosing prints and “lo res
images, for personal use.” (Cramer Decl. Ex. C.)
years later, in January 2016, Hidden City used the photograph
in an online publication about an architectural project.
(Id. Ex. D.) As a result, Cramer claims that Baker
and Hidden City infringed on the copyright because he did not
grant Baker the right to sublicense the photograph and Hidden
City did not have authorization to republish the photograph.
(Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate when the admissible evidence fails to
demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if
“a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party, ” and it is material if, under
substantive law, it “might affect the outcome of the
suit.” Id. at 248.
the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof, “the
party moving for summary judgment may satisfy Rule 56's
burden” by “submit[ting] affirmative evidence
that negates an essential element of the nonmoving
party's claim” or “demonstrat[ing] . . . that
the nonmoving party's evidence is insufficient to
establish an essential element of the nonmoving party's
claim.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 331 (1986).
considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must view
the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant and
draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmovant's favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court may not,
however, make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence in considering motions for summary judgment.
Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d
City moves for summary judgment on three bases, including a
lack of standing. It also requests an additional hearing for
Rule 11 sanctions against Cramer and his counsel. The Court
will grant Hidden City's motion for summary judgment
because it concludes that Cramer neither owns the photograph
nor suffered an individual injury and, thus, lacks
standing. However, the Court will deny Hidden
City's request for sanctions because it is procedurally
inadequate and lacks merit.
Cramer Lacks Standing Because He Does Not Own the
to sue for copyright infringement is governed by 17 U.S.C.
§ 501. The statute provides that “[t]he legal or
beneficial owner of an exclusive right under a copyright is
entitled . . . to institute an action for any infringement of
that particular right committed while he or she is the owner
of it.” 17 U.S.C. § 501. “[A]s the party
asserting a copyright infringement claim, [plaintiff] bears
the burden of proving standing by demonstrating its ownership
of the subject copyright.” Clarity Software, LLC v.
Fin. Indep. Grp.,51 F.Supp.3d 577, 587 n.12 (W.D. Pa.
2014). A company's ownership of a copyright does not
confer standing on the company's executives. See
Wallert v. Atlan,141 F.Supp.3d 258, 276-77 (S.D.N.Y.
2015) (rejecting a business owner's argument that he had
standing to sue for a copyright owned by the business).
But see Jules Jordan Video, Inc. v. 144942 Canada
Inc.,617 F.3d 1146, ...