Schrock v. Learning Curve Int’l, Inc., No. 04 C 6927, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 29, 2008) (Shadur, J.).*

Judge Shadur granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment of non-infringement and dismissed plaintiff’s related state law claims. Plaintiff took a series of photographs of defendants’ Thomas & Friend toy trains, each pursuant to a provision that defendants could only use the photographs for two years. Plaintiff argued that defendants infringed plaintiff’s copyrights by using the photographs after the two years were up. 

But the Court held that plaintiff had no copyright. The photographs were derivative works based upon defendant’s copyrighted Thomas & Friends train engines and cars. The party making a derivative work must have the copyright holder’s permission to copyright the derivative work. While plaintiff had the right to make the derivative works, plaintiff was not granted the right to copyright them. Plaintiff, therefore, had no copyright. And because plaintiff’s state law claims were based on supplemental jurisdiction, they were dismissed without prejudice.

The Court also noted that President Abraham Lincoln, a month before his assassination, signed the bill making photographs copyrightable for the first time.

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