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John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Swancoat

August 14, 2009



The plaintiff, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (the "plaintiff"), brings this action for copyright infringement against Steven Swancoat, d/b/a Gannscience, d/b/a ("Swancoat" or "the defendant") and various John and Jane Does (collectively, the "defendants"), alleging that the defendants sold electronic copies of the plaintiff's copyrighted works through the website The plaintiff also alleges claims for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, and unfair competition. The defendant now moves to dismiss the action for improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to the Western District of Missouri pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).


The plaintiff is a global publishing company with its headquarters in Hoboken, New Jersey. (Compl. ¶ 4; Def. Resp. Attach. D.) Swancoat represents that he is a student at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Bioscience. (See Def.'s Mot. p. 2.) According to Swancoat, he currently resides in Missouri, but he resided in Michigan at the time he was served in this action. (See Def.'s Mot. pp. 1-2.) Swancoat operated the website, on which he offered for sale copies of various written works. (Decl. of William Dunnegan, dated Feb. 13, 2009 at Ex. B ¶¶ 7-9 ("Dunnegan Decl.")) The website allowed customers to purchase copies of these texts over the internet. (Dunnegan Decl. Ex. C.) The website also allowed for the exchange of contact and mailing information between Swancoat and customers. (Id.) Many of the texts offered for sale on Gannscience.come were copyrighted material belonging to the plaintiff. (See generally Dunnegan Decl. Ex. B.) Of the texts sold by Swancoat via, at least seven were shipped to New York. (Dunnegan Decl. ¶ 5.) In addition, Swancoat sold three books that are the subject of this action to a paralegal at the firm representing the plaintiff and shipped them into this District. (Dunnegan Decl. ¶ 6.)



A plaintiff may bring an action under federal copyright laws "in the district in which the defendant or his agent resides or may be found." 28 U.S.C. § 1400(a). "A defendant 'may be found' in any district in which he is subject to personal jurisdiction." Lipton v. The Nature Co., 781 F. Supp. 1032, 1035 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (citation omitted). Because there is no specific federal statute governing personal jurisdiction on a copyright claim, this Court must look to the provisions of state law. See Fort Knox Music Inc. v. Baptiste, 203 F.3d 193, 196 (2d Cir. 2000). New York's long-arm statute provides for personal jurisdiction over any non-domiciliary who "transacts any business within the state" for a "cause of action arising from" any of those acts. N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 302(a). A claim "will be deemed to have arisen out of a party's activities in New York if there is an articulable nexus, or a substantial relationship, between the claim asserted and the actions that occurred in New York." Henderson v. I.N.S., 157 F.3d 106, 123 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[A] single transaction in New York may suffice to invoke personal jurisdiction" so long as both the "transacts any business" and "substantial relationship" requirements are satisfied. Ehrenfeld v. Mahfouz, 489 F.3d 542, 548 (2d Cir. 2007); see also Kreutter v. McFadden Oil Corp., 522 N.E.2d 40, 43 (N.Y. 1988) (under § 302(a)(1) even "proof of one transaction in New York is sufficient to invoke jurisdiction, even though the defendant never enters New York, so long as the defendant's activities here were purposeful and there is a substantial relationship between the transaction and the claim asserted.").

Purposeful availment can be found even when defendants sell as few as one item into New York via the internet. See Alpha Int'l, Inc. v. T-Reproductions, Inc., 02 Civ. 9586, 2003 WL 21511957, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2003) (defendant's sale of "at least one . . . product" into New York from its website sufficed to show defendant had transacted business in New York); Mattel, Inc. v. Adventure Apparel, 00 Civ. 4085, 2001 WL 286728, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 22, 2001) (defendant's sale of one pair of hosiery via its website constituted transacting business in New York).

Swancoat made several sales of books into New York. The plaintiff holds the copyright for the books. The sale required payment from New York purchasers and required the exchange of shipping and contact information with New York customers. The plaintiff's complaint is based on the infringement of its copyrights based on these sales into New York. See Dunnegan Decl. ¶¶ 5-6.

The defendant's activities are sufficient to show that the defendant transacted business in New York and that there is a substantial relationship between transacting that business and the claim asserted in the complaint. See Pearson Educ., Inc. v. Shi, 525 F. Supp. 2d 551, 556 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) ("Personal jurisdiction has been found when out-of-state defendants allegedly have sold copyright-infringing merchandise over the Internet to customers in New York.") (collecting cases); Alpha Int'l, 2003 WL 21511957, at *3; Mattel, 2001 WL 286728, at *3.

Because plaintiff's cause of action for copyright infringement is directly related to the defendant's sale into New York of works allegedly infringing these copyrights, a sufficient nexus exists between the claim asserted and the actions in New York State. Having met both prongs of this test, the plaintiff has satisfied the requirements of § 302(a)(1).*fn1

Jurisdiction over the defendant must also comport with the constitutional requirement of due process. There are two parts to the due process test for personal jurisdiction: the "minimum contacts" inquiry and the "reasonableness" inquiry. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 567 (2d Cir. 1996). The minimum contacts inquiry requires that the court determine whether a defendant has sufficient contacts with the forum state to justify the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. See Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945); Metropolitan Life, 84 F.3d at 567. In determining whether minimum contacts exist, courts must examine the "quality and nature" of the contacts under a totality of the circumstances test, to determine whether the defendant has "purposefully avail[ed] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws . . . such that [the defendant] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." Best Van Lines, Inc. v. Walker, 490 F.3d 239, 242-43 (2d Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). The court should consider the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation. Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 775 (1984); Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 204 (1977); Chew v. Dietrich, 143 F.3d 24, 28 (2d Cir. 1998). The reasonableness inquiry requires the court to determine whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defendant comports with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" under the circumstances of the particular case. Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 788 (1984) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).

The Court must take into account five factors in this inquiry: (1) the burden that the exercise of jurisdiction will impose on the defendant; (2) the interests of the forum state in adjudicating the case; (3) the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief; (4) the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of the controversy; and (5) the shared interest of the states in furthering substantive social policies. See Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 113-14 (1987); see also Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-77 (1985); World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292 (1980); Metropolitan Life, 84 F.3d at 568; Lechner v. Marco-Domo Internationales Interieur GMBH, 03 Civ. 5664, 2005 WL 612814, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 2005).

The exercise of jurisdiction over Swancoat does not violate the constitutional guarantee of due process because both the minimum contacts and the reasonableness requirements are satisfied here. Swancoat has sufficient minimum contacts with the State of New York. He has sold books into New York State that allegedly infringed the plaintiff's copyrights. Swancoat has received payment for the books and exchanged contact and mailing information with New York residents. Thus, he could reasonably have expected to be subject to suit in New York for the sales of those products into New York.

The exercise of jurisdiction over Swancoat would also be reasonable. While Swancoat argues that defending a lawsuit in New York would place an unfair financial burden on a student residing in a distant location, this argument is not persuasive in light of the purposeful actions that he took with respect to New York. Thus, the exercise ...

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