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Maharam v. Patterson, et al., USDC S.D. New York

Plaintiff children’s book author claimed that defendant author, illustrator, and publisher of book titled SantaKID, and department store whose window display was based on defendants’ book, infringed the copyright in her book titled ‘Kid’ Santa Clause.

Although plaintiff produced evidence that she appeared on several radio and television shows during the 1980s to promote her book, court did not find that her work was “widely disseminated” which is a factor when considering whether the defendants had access to plaintiff’s work. More importantly, the court held that defendants produced substantial, uncontradicted evidence that their children’s book was created independently of plaintiff’s work. Such evidence included copies of defendant author’s original handwritten manuscript and ten subsequent re-drafts; correspondence between author and his editors, which included detailed editorial comments; and defendant illustrator’s initial black-and-white sketches and subsequent drafts, many of which contained editorial comments. Court wrote that a defendant may defeat a copyright infringement claim by demonstrating independent creation of the allegedly infringing work, and that summary judgment is appropriate when a plaintiff fails to offer evidence sufficient to raise a factual question about defendant’s proof of independent creation. Court held that plaintiff’s generalized, speculative arguments failed to rebut defendants’ evidence of independent creation, and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment.