Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Seiler v. Lucasfilm case brief

Seiler v. Lucasfilm case brief summary
808 F.2d 1316 (9th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 826 (1987)

Plaintiff challenged rulings from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on an award of summary judgment under the best evidence rule, Fed. R. Evid. 1004(1), and 17 U.S.C.S. § 410(c).

Plaintiff sued defendant for copyright infringement, but failed to produce any original evidence in existence before the movie was released. When plaintiff sought the admissibility of evidence other than the original, he had to prove in an evidentiary hearing that the originals were not lost or destroyed in bad faith under the best evidence rule, Fed. R. Evid. 1004(1).


  • The court found that plaintiff failed to so prove and that his secondary evidence was not admissible, and it was prohibited from being submitted as evidence. 
  • The court held that plaintiff's certificate of copyright registration was not evidence of any material fact and 17 U.S.C.S. § 410(c) did not compel its submission. 
  • The court ruled that § 410(c) did not apply because the certificate had no bearing on the ultimate fact plaintiff sought to prove by its submission. 
  • The court held that prima facie statements in the certificate were irrelevant because no proof was shown that the reconstructed attachments were similar to originals.

The court upheld the award of summary judgment to defendant and affirmed the holdings that plaintiff failed to prove that the originals were not lost or destroyed in bad faith, the best evidence rule prohibited plaintiff from introducing secondary reconstructed evidence, and the reconstructed attachments were not proven similar to the original and were irrelevant.

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