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Latour v. Columbia Univ.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 31, 2014

ALESSANDRA LATOUR, Plaintiff,
v.
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and MARK WIGLEY, Individually and as agent for Columbia University, Defendants

For The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York and Mark Wigley, Defendants: Mary E. Mulligan, Robert S. Landy, FRIEDMAN KAPLAN SEILER & ADELMAN LLP.

For Alessandra Latour, Plaintiff: Susan B. Egan, EGAN LAW FIRM.

OPINION

Page 659

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Lewis A. Kaplan, United States District Judge.

Alessandra Latour brings this action for copyright infringement and related state law claims against Columbia University and Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (" GSAPP" ). Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings dismissing the complaint. For the reasons set forth below the motion is granted.

Facts

Latour, an Italian citizen residing in New York,[1] decided in 2007 to create a joint post-graduate architectural program on globalization and its consequences focusing on New York and Moscow.[2] She called this program " Global Metropolis: New York-Moscow" and wrote a five-page proposal (the " Proposal" ) describing the history and rationale of the program and a proposed curriculum.[3] The Proposal specified that the program would be " jointly carried out" by GSAPP and the Moscow

Page 660

Architectural Institute (" MARKHI" ).[4] Latour pitched the program, using the Proposal, first to the Rector of MARKHI and then to Wigley at GSAPP.[5]

MARKHI and GSAPP entered into a Memorandum of Agreement in September 2008, which incorporated the Proposal.[6] Thereafter, Latour asserts, " MARKHI and GSAPP agreed that [she] would head the effort to organize and implement the [p]rogram," that Wigley promised to compensate her for her work and reimburse her expenses, that she was to be identified as " coordinator" of the program, and that all of this would be memorialized in an agreement with GSAPP.[7] Latour allegedly relied on these representations and worked to develop and implement the program for several years.[8] In 2010, Wigley said that Latour would be paid more quickly if she were considered a " teacher," though they agreed that a written contract would identify her as " coordinator." [9] The program began in June 2011 with eight students.[10] In its second semester, the plaintiff jointly ran a studio in Moscow with a Russian colleague.[11]

The complaint asserts that in late 2010 " Wigley began taking steps to gain control of the Program from Plaintiff." [12] In January 2012, Latour was offered a written contract but it " did not contain the terms that Wigley had represented." [13] Among other things, it " did not describe her role as coordinator or teacher of the [p]rogram." [14] No contract ever was signed.[15]

On March 20, 2012, Wigley informed Latour that she no longer could be a part of the program.[16] Latour responded that GSAPP could not use the Proposal -- " the [p]rogram was her idea[,] she did all the work to implement it, and it didn't belong to GSAPP." [17] Latour asserts that defendants continued to operate the program and used the Proposal on the GSAPP website through the summer of 2012 without permission.[18] On September 19, 2012, Latour obtained Certificates of Registration from the United States Copyright Office for two versions of the Proposal, dated July 26, 2007 and August 3, 2008, respectively.[19]

Latour alleges that Columbia University committed copyright infringement when it continued to display and use the Proposal on the GSAPP website. The complaint seeks statutory damages for copyright infringement, as well as an order enjoining Columbia University from reproducing and displaying the Proposal and from running a post-graduate degree program entitled " Global Metropolis: New York-Moscow." The complaint seeks damages also for common law ...


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