The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR Marrero, District Judge.
DECISION AND AMENDED ORDER
Plaintiffs Kyle Morris ("Morris") and William Richert "Richert," and
together with Morris, "Plaintiffs") filed a complaint (the "Complaint")
against Defendants Castle Rock Entertainment, Inc. ("Castle Rock"), Alan
Horn, Rob Reiner ("Reiner"), Aaron Sorkin ("Sorkin"), Sally Burmeister,
Writers Guild of America, West, Inc. ("WGA"), Richard Heller and Warner
Television, Inc. ("WTI") (collectively, the "Defendants") alleging that
Defendants had (i) breached certain contracts with the Plaintiffs, (ii)
infringed certain copyrighted materials of Plaintiffs, (iii) violated the
Lanham Act, (iv) committed fraud and (v) engaged in a conspiracy against
the Plaintiffs.*fn1 Defendants in turn filed a motion pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the Complaint
in its entirety. By Order dated January 31, 2003, the Court granted
Defendants' motion and indicated that its findings, reasoning and
conclusions would be set forth in a separate decision to be made
available to the parties. Accordingly, for the reasons discussed below,
Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
In October of 1980, Plaintiffs wrote an original treatment for a film
they titled "The President Elopes" (the "Film"), which involved a widowed
President raising his young daughter and attempting to begin a new
romance. After completing the treatment, Morris entered into a contract
with Richert International Corporation, Inc. ("RIC"), which provided for
an equal split of all revenues arising from the sale of any rights of the
Film. Shortly thereafter, RIC signed a contract (the "Contract") with
Walt Disney Productions ("WD") in which Plaintiffs agreed to work on
revisions of the treatment and, at WD's option, a screenplay of the
Film. RIC also assigned all of its intellectual property rights for the
Film to WD.
Over the next four years, the Contract was sold various times to
different movie studios, while Richert continued writing new drafts of
the screenplay. In 1985, Universal Pictures ("Universal") purchased the
Contract and obtained involvement in the project by Wildwood Films
("Wildwood"), a production company affiliated with the actor and director
Robert Redford ("Redford"). After several years of development, during
which time other screenwriters attempted to draft new versions of the
Film, Universal and Wildwood asked Richert to write a new draft of the
Film. Subsequently, in 1992, Reiner, as a representative of Castle Rock,
the production company with which he was affiliated, approached Redford
and agreed to jointly produce the Film with Wildwood.
Later on in 1992, Castle Rock hired Sorkin to write a new screenplay
with a similar concept as the one on which the Film was based. In 1994,
Wildwood sold the Contract to Castle Rock,*fn2 which by this time was
producing a film called "The American President" that had been written by
Sorkin. In May of 1995, Castle Rock instituted proceedings with the WGA
to ask that Sorkin receive sole writer's credit for "The American
President." Morris protested this request, and consequently the WGA
established an arbitration panel (the "Panel") to determine whether
Sorkin should receive sole credit for the screenplay to "The American
President." The Panel began the arbitration process on September 7, 1995
and, on September 29, 1995, concluded that Sorkin deserved sole credit.
"The American President" was subsequently released on November 17, 1995,
and Sorkin later went on to create and produce a television show about
the daily workings of the White House titled "The West Wing.
Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is proper only where "it appears beyond doubt that
the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that
would entitle him to relief." Harris v. City of New York, 186 F.3d 243,
247 (2d Cir. 1999). On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), a court accepts all well-pleaded factual assertions in the
complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) ; see
also McGinty v. State of New York, 193 F.3d 64, 68 (2d Cir. 1999). The
court may not consider matters outside the pleadings, see Tewksbury v.
Ottaway Newspapers, 192 F.3d 322, 325 n. 1 (2d Cir. 1999), but may review
"any written instrument attached to [the Complaint] as an exhibit . . . ."
Rothman v. Gregor, 220 F.3d 81, 88 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted)
B. PLAINTIFFS' COPYRIGHT CLAIMS
Plaintiffs allege that the production of both "The American President"
and "The West Wing" infringed on Plaintiffs' copyrighted material, namely
"The President Elopes." In order to prevail on a claim of violation of
copyright, a copyright plaintiff must first establish (1) ownership of a
valid copyright and (2) copying of constituent original elements of
plaintiff's work. See Feist Publications, Inc. v.
Rural Tel. Serv. Co., Inc., 499 U.S. 340, 360 (1991)
Plaintiffs fail to establish the first element of this test. Indeed,
the Contract — attached to the Amended Complaint as an exhibit
— clearly states that all work produced by the Plaintiffs for RIC
shall be done in an employer-for-hire relationship, with all copyrights
assigned by Plaintiffs first to RIC and then from RIC to WD. (Amended
Compl., Exh. A, ¶ 11.) The language in this assignment provision is
unambiguous. As part of the agreement, WD obtained
(i) [t]he copyright . . . and all now or hereafter
existing rights of every kind or character whatsoever
pertaining to said work, and the title thereof,
whether or not such rights are now known, recognized
or contemplated; and (ii) [t]he complete,
unrestricted, unconditional and unencumbered title in
and to said work, and all results and ...