Myrieckes v. Woods

Myrieckes v. Woods, No. 08-CV-04297, 2010 BL 283532 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 1, 2010)

Facts: P brought action against D and her publishing company alleging copyright infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 106(1) and (3). P alleges D’s book Deadly Reign is substantially similar to P’s book Street Games. P made a motion for default judgment, D made a motion to dismiss.

Procedure: P filed in district court, district court referred the case to the Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation. Magistrate recommended that P’s motion for default judgment be denied and D’s motion to dismiss to converted to a motion for summary judgment and be granted.

Issue: Whether the court should accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge.

Held: The court accepts the Magistrate Judge report and recommendation in its entirety.

Analysis and Dicta:
In determining whether to grant or deny a motion for default judgment, a court should examine: 1: whether the failure to respond was willful, 2: whether defendants have a meritorious defense, 3: whether plaintiff was prejudiced by the delay. As for the first prong, the magistrate judge properly found that the defendants failure to respond was at most negligent because they believed service was deficient. With regards to whether the defendants have a meritorious defense, the test is whether the evidence submitted, if proven at trial, would constitute a complete defense. The court concluded that the evidence that was included in the dismiss paper constituted a complete defense (Note: the court did not talk about what that evidence was so I can not get into any details of that here). Lastly, the court finds that the magistrate judge properly concluded that a two month delay was not prejudicial to the plaintiff. The delay was not sufficient to thwart discovery or hinder their case. By reviewing these three factors the court decided that the Plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment should be denied.

The court found that the Magistrate Judge acted properly when converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment when matters outside the pleadings are accepted by the court. The defendant’s motion to dismiss focused entirely on whether the two works were similar. Summary judgment is proper when “the similarity concerns only noncopyrightable elements of plaintiff’s work, or when no reasonable trier of fact could find the works substantially similar.” A court will examine the similarities of the works, such as total concept, feel, theme, characters, plot, sequence, place and setting and determine whether a reasonable trier of fact could find them substantially similar.
The court agreed with the Magistrate that these two works may tell similar stories by when they are examined on the level that a court will look at as previously detailed no trier of fact could find them substantially similar.

Future importance: Just reiterates the standard that a court will look at when reviewing motions for default judgment and summary judgment. No real future importance.

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