Friday, December 6, 2013

Arnstein v. Porter case brief

Arnstein v. Porter case brief summary
154 F.2d 464 (1946)

Plaintiff sought review of a judgment of a federal district court (New York) which, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.56, denied him his right to jury trial in his action that alleged copyright infringement based on musical works. Plaintiff had sought damages.

Plaintiff filed a complaint for copyright infringement of musical works, and made a jury demand. Defendant moved to strike the jury demand, and urged the relief prayed in the complaint rendered a jury trial inappropriate.

  • The trial court held a bench trial, and rendered judgment, relying on depositions and expert testimony. 
  • Plaintiff successfully argued his complaint for damages was an action at law, founded on statute, and did not deprive either party of a right to a trial by jury. 
  • The trial court disbelieved plaintiff's accusation that defendant had access to the works. 
  • Witness credibility, even to apparent improbabilities, should have been left to the jury, and similarities, standing alone, did not compel the conclusion or permit the inference that defendant copied. 
  • The similarities were sufficient if there were evidence of access to permit the case to go to a jury, and those lay listeners would determine the facts.

The court modified the trial court judgment in part, and otherwise reversed and remanded, because plaintiff's complaint was an action at law which included a jury demand, and sought money damages, founded on statute, and though plaintiff's credibility was doubted, he was entitled to a trial by jury.

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