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Bean v. Pearson Education, Inc.

Court denies plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction in copyright infringement action, holding that plaintiffs failed to establish irreparable harm.

Plaintiffs are professional photographers who licensed their copyrighted works to defendant, a publisher of textbooks and other educational material, alleging that defendant exceeded the scope of the licenses by using the works in more copies of books and materials than the licenses allowed. Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to halt distribution of the defendant’s textbooks and other materials. The court, citing eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, noted that the Supreme Court has made clear that an injunction does not automatically follow a determination that a copyright has been infringed.

According to the court, a copyright plaintiff seeking injunctive relief must satisfy the traditional four-factor test by showing (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in its favor; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest. A plaintiff must demonstrate that irreparable harm is real and significant, not speculative or remote, and the plaintiff must also establish that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury.

Defendant asserted that “[t]o the extent Pearson printed publications in excess of the quantities stated in the licenses, any harm to Plaintiffs is purely monetary and can be adequately remedied with money damages.” The court agreed, stating that “[n]othing Plaintiffs have presented indicates otherwise. Indeed, as Defendant argues, the evidence suggests that Plaintiffs themselves regard monetary damages as adequate compensation for the unauthorized use of their photographs.”

The court stated that the cases cited by plaintiffs did not support their position that monetary damages would be an insufficient remedy. “Plaintiffs do not contend that their losses cannot be quantified, that the market for their product has been damaged, or that their ‘brand, business reputation, and goodwill . . . would be irreparably harmed,’” citing Apple Inc. v. Paystar Corp., 673 F. Supp. 2d 943, 948-49 (N.D. Cal. 2009), Microsoft Corp. v. Marturano, No. 1:06-CV-1747, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 44450, (E.D. Cal. May 27, 2009), and Designer Skin, LLC, v. S&L Vitamins, Inc., No. CV 05-3699, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68467 (D. Ariz. Sept. 5, 2008).

The court also rejected plaintiffs’ allegation that that they would be subjected to future copyright infringement by defendant if the court does not order an injunction, explaining that “the mere likelihood of future infringement by a defendant does not by itself allow for an inference of irreparable harm” because “future copyright infringement can always be redressed via damages, whether actual or statutory.” See Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 518 F.Supp.2d 1197, 1215 (C.D. Cal. 2007).