Monday, January 6, 2014

Religious Technology Ctr. v. Lerma case brief

Religious Technology Ctr. v. Lerma case brief summary
40 U.S.P.Q.2d 1569 (1989)

Plaintiff sought summary judgment on his copyright infringement suit brought against defendant pursuant to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 101 et seq.

Plaintiff, having sued defendant for violating the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 101 et seq., when defendant copied plaintiff's copyrighted material and distributed them on the Internet as part of a protest against plaintiff's activities, sought summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.56.


  • The trial court granted summary judgment, holding that: 
  • (a) plaintiff's work was protected since the documents in question could be discussed separately from unprotected ideas, 
  • (b) the fair use defense did not apply, given the application of a four-factor test, largely because defendant copied plaintiff's works in their entirety and posted large portions of work without any commentary whatsoever, and 
  • (c) misuse of the copyright defense did not apply since plaintiff neither attempted to assert copyrights it did not own nor attempted to tie its copyrights to other products. 
  • The trial court awarded only the lowest-possible statutory damages, however, given defendant's nonwillful violation and lack of resources.
Summary judgment was granted; plaintiff's works were protected, not unprotected ideas, and neither fair use nor misuse of copyright defenses applied, given breadth of copying, lack of commentary in reproductions, legitimacy of plaintiff's copyright, and lack of attempt to tie the copyright to other products.

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