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PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORP. v. CAROL PUBL. GROUP

June 1, 1998

PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROL PUBLISHING GROUP, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONTI

ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

 I. INTRODUCTION

 This is an action for copyright infringement brought by plaintiff Paramount Pictures Corporation ("Paramount") which owns copyrights in the Star Trek television series and movies. Paramount contends that a book entitled The Joy of Trek, written by defendant Sam Ramer ("Ramer") and published by defendant Carol Publishing Group ("Carol Publishing"), infringes a number of its Star Trek related copyrights. Paramount filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin the publication and distribution of The Joy of Trek. Having conducted a hearing on this issue, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 II. BACKGROUND

 The original Star Trek series (the "Original Series") made its network television debut in 1966. This unique science fiction television program chronicled the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise and its crew as they traveled through space during the 23rd century. Many of its characters, such as Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, have become household names. The Original Series was broadcast nationwide through 1969, and since that time episodes of the Original Series have been rerun in syndication. In addition to the Original Series there have been eight Star Trek Motion Pictures, as well three further Stark Trek television series: Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; and, Star Trek: Voyager. Collectively, the Court will refer to these works as the Star Trek Properties.

 The Star Trek Properties created a subcultural phenomenom, fostering a number of intensely loyal fans. The fervency of these fans apparently influenced *fn1" NBC to reverse its decision to cancel the Original Series after its first season. The more devoted of these fans are known as "Trekkers." Ramer, the author of The Joy of Trek, is a self confessed Trekker.

 The popularity of the Star Trek Properties has given rise to a cottage of industry of products, both licensed and unlicensed, that are in some way related to Star Trek. These products range from toys and clothing to books which detail every conceivable aspect of the Star Trek Properties. Although Paramount has spent considerable time and money enforcing its rights in the intellectual property related to Star Trek, it has not instigated legal proceedings against every entity that has potentially run afoul of those rights. Paramount estimates that, since 1994, it has brought over one hundred actions related to the Star Trek Properties and spent one million dollars per year to enforce these intellectual property rights.

 In creating The Joy of Trek, Ramer and Carol publishing (collectively "Defendants") sought to create a book that would explain the Star Trek phenomenon to the non-Trekker, particularly someone who finds him or herself involved in a relationship with a Trekker. The book's complete title is, The Joy of Trek : How to Enhance Your Relations with a STAR TREK Pan. The book's back cover explains that it contains, "everything a Star Trek novice needs to know to keep up with with a diehard Trekker." The 217-page book contains three distinct sections. The first section, the Preface and Chapters One and Two, contains an explanation of the popularity of Star Trek and a brief description of the typical Trekker. The next section, (the "Middle Portion"), pages 33 through 190, is a guide to the Star Trek Properties which contains: brief synopses of the major plots and story lines of many of the Star Trek Properties; descriptions of the history and personalities of the major Star Trek characters; and, descriptions of the fictional alien species and fictional technologies that appear in the Star Trek Properties. The final portion of the book consists of a variety of information, including ways to relate to Trekkers and a personal recollection of Ramer's experiences at Star Trek conventions. *fn2"

 The Joy of Trek was published in November of 1997. Paramount became aware of the publication on or about December 17, 1997. On January of 15, 1997, Paramount advised Carol publishing by letter of counsel that it believed The Joy of Trek infringed on its rights in the Star Trek Properties, and demanded the Carol Publishing cease publication. On February 10, 1998, after being informed that Carol Publishing refused to discontinue publishing the book, Paramount made this application for a preliminarily injunction barring the publication, distribution and sale of The Joy of Trek.

 III. DISCUSSION

 In order to succeed on a motion for a preliminary injunction, a party must show (a) irreparable harm should the injunction not be granted, and (b) either (i) a likelihood of success on the merits or (ii) sufficient serious question going to the merits and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in the movant's favor. ABKCO Music. Inc. v. Stellar Records, Inc., 96 F.3d 60, 64 (2d Cir. 1996). Because a prima facie case of copyright infringement creates a presumption of irreparable harm, the Court begins its analysis with the likelihood of success on the merits.

 A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

 1. Infringement

 To succeed on its claim for copyright infringement, Paramount must demonstrate two elements: "(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original." Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Serv., Inc., 499 U.S. 340, 361, 111 S. Ct. 1282, 113 L. Ed. 2d 358 (1991). In the instant case, Paramount has produced copies of copyright certificates which constitute prima facie evidence of ownership of a valid copyright. See 17 U.S.C. ยง 410(c). Defendants do not dispute that Paramount owns valid copyrights in the Star Trek television shows and movies. The sole issue, therefore, is whether The Joy of Trek copies these works *fn3"

 A plaintiff may establish copying either by direct evidence or by showing that the defendant had access to the plaintiff's work and the two works are substantially similar. Twin Peaks Productions, Inc. v. Publications International Ltd., 996 F.2d 1366, 1372 (2d Cir. 1993). As an initial matter, it would be absurd to suggest that Ramer has not copied from the Star Trek Properties *fn4" His book contains quotations taken directly from these works, and the Middle Portion is devoted to telling a large portion of the star Trek story. See Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publishing Group, Inc., 955 F. Supp. 260, 264 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). Indeed, the book's back cover explains that it contains "everything a Star Trek novice needs to know to keep up with a diehard Trekker [including] a concise history of the series and the movies." The fact that the Joy of Trek copies from the Star Trek Properties as a factual matter is not dispositive. ...


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