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WOODS v. UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS

March 29, 1996

LEBBEUS WOODS, Plaintiff, against UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS, INC., ATLAS ENTERTAINMENT, INC., TERRY GILLIAM and JEFFREY BEECROFT, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CEDARBAUM

 CEDARBAUM, J.

 Lebbeus Woods sues Universal City Studios, Inc. for infringement of his copyright in a drawing. Woods has moved for a preliminary injunction enjoining Universal from distributing, exhibiting, performing or copying those portions of the motion picture entitled 12 Monkeys which reproduce his copyrighted drawing, or any portion of it. For the reasons that follow, Woods' motion is granted.

 Background

 In 1987, Woods created with graphite pencil a detailed drawing, entitled "Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber," which depicted a chamber with a high ceiling, a chair mounted on a wall and a sphere suspended in front of the chair. (Woods Aff. P 7 & Exh. 1.) The wall and floor of the chamber are comprised of large rectangles with visible joints forming a grid pattern. (Id., Exh. 1.) The chair, whose back, seat, front and footrest are each comprised of rectangles, is attached to a vertical rail on one wall. (Id.) The sphere is supported by a metal-frame armature and held aloft directly in front of the chair at face level. (Id.) Cables loop beneath the chair and the sphere. (Id.) This version of "(Upper) Chamber" appeared in a catalog entitled Lebbeus Woods/Centricity, published in Germany in 1987. (Id. P 7.) In 1991, Woods colored his black and white drawing of "(Upper) Chamber," and this version was included in a collection of Woods' illustrations entitled Lebbeus Woods/The New City, published in the United States in 1992. (Id. PP 8-9.)

 In late December 1995, Universal released 12 Monkeys. At the start of the movie, the main character is brought into a room where he is told to sit in a chair which is attached to a vertical rail on a wall. The chair slides up the rail to a horizontal ledge on the wall so that the chair is several yards above the ground. A sphere supported by a metal-frame armature descending from above is suspended directly in front of the main character. On three occasions, the main character returns to this chair. (Anderson Aff., Exh. 14-15.)

 In early January 1996, two of Woods' colleagues told him that they believed 12 Monkeys was using his work. (Woods Aff. P 10.) On January 18, 1996, Woods saw the movie. (Id. P 12.) On January 24, Woods, through his attorney, notified Universal of his claim. (Anderson Aff. P 4.)

 Discussion

 To obtain a preliminary injunction, Woods must demonstrate: (1) irreparable harm and (2) either a likelihood of success on the merits of his claim, or sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in his favor. Polymer Technology Corp. v. Mimran, 37 F.3d 74, 77-78 (2d Cir. 1994).

 I. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

 To establish infringement of a copyright, a plaintiff must show both ownership of a copyright and that the defendant copied the protected material without authorization. Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301, 306 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 934, 121 L. Ed. 2d 278, 113 S. Ct. 365 (1992).

 A. Registration

 Section 411(a) of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. ยง 411(a) (1988), requires a plaintiff to register a copyright claim before bringing an action for infringement. In 1992, the color version of "(Upper) Chamber" appeared in The New City, a collection of illustrations by Woods. (Woods Aff. P 9 & Exh. 5.) Universal argues that the copyright registration for this book, filed in August 1992, only covers the selection and arrangement of Woods' illustrations, not the earlier published illustrations themselves. However, the certificate of copyright registration for The New City lists Lebbeus Woods as the author of the illustrations contained in the book.

 Moreover, where the owner of the copyright for a collective work also owns the copyrights for its constituent parts, registration of the collective work satisfies the requirements of Section 411(a) for purposes of bringing an action for infringement of any of the constituent parts. See Greenwich Film Prod. v. DRG Records, 833 F. Supp. 248, 252 (S.D.N.Y. 1993); Computer Assoc. Int'l v. Altai, Inc., 775 F. Supp. 544, 556-57 (E.D.N.Y. 1991), aff'd in part, vacated in part on other grounds, 982 F.2d 693 (1992). Wood's submissions show that he owns the copyright in the earlier published "(Upper) Chamber." ...


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