Cohen v. Versatile Studios, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Jurisdiction
  • Date Filed: 04-21-2014
  • Case #: 13-CV-08280 (VEC)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55418
  • Westlaw Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55418
  • Full Text Opinion

Cases that hinge on whether a copyrighted work was created as a ‘work made for hire’ or as independent are ownership disputes that arise under the Copyright Act.

Opinion (Caproni): Jeff Cohen agreed to create a database for company One Drop, Inc., an affiliate of Defendant Versatile Studios, Inc. Cohen agreed to develop a similar database for Versatile; Versatile requested that Cohen turn over the programmer’s password to the program, which would allow Versatile “to edit, examine, or copy the code.” Cohen declined to give Versatile the password, believing the database to be his intellectual property, and instead offered to “fix bugs free of charge, with no expiration date.” Cohen to filed a lawsuit after continued disagreements. Versatile challenged the jurisdiction of the Court; Cohen asserted that his Complaint fell under the Copyright Act, because his claim hinged on an interpretation of the “work for hire” doctrine. The Court stated that jurisdiction in this case turned on the interpretation of the parties’ contract or on a determination of the initial authorship of the database if the contract is silent on the issue. The Court held that “a dispute that turns on whether a copyrighted work was created independently or as a ‘work made for hire’ is an ownership dispute that unquestionably arises under the Copyright Act”, and therefore the Court has jurisdiction because the case “arises under” the Federal Copyright Act. Ultimately, however, it was found that there is no actual dispute over copyright between the parties and the case was dismissed due to lack of a case or controversy in violation of Article III. Defendant’s motion to dismiss was GRANTED and Defendants’ motion for costs was DENIED.

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