Donovan v. Quade, No. 05 C 3533, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Oct. 15, 2009) (Nolan, Mag. J.)

Judge Nolan granted in part defendants/counterplaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment in this copyright suit. Initially, the Court deemed admitted all of plaintiff’s properly supported supplemental statements of material fact because defendants failed to factually support their denials of the facts pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B). The plaintiff and individual defendant were co-authors of the well-known play Late Night Catechism (“LNC”) and its primary character “Sister” a fictional Roman Catholic nun. The individuals founded defendant QDE in 2000 as a vehicle for producing LNC. The individual defendant also made plays that were derivative works of LNC and licensed them separately from QDE. Plaintiff also made derivative works, but only licensed them through QDE.

False Designation of Origin and Deceptive Trade Practices

The Court granted summary judgment as to plaintiff’s false designation of origin and deceptive trade practice claims because plaintiff did not respond to defendants’ summary judgment arguments as to those claims.

Deprivation of Copyright Revenues

Because the Court held that the parties were not governed by a partnership agreement, copyright law governed any revenues from LNC. The issue, therefore, was whether plaintiff’s plays were derivative of the parties’ joint work LNC. First, the Court held that LNC was a joint work of the parties. The parties’ copyright application identified the parties as joint authors, and plaintiff failed to put forth sufficient evidence to counter the presumption created by the application.

The Court also held that plaintiff’s later plays were derivative of LNC. Defendants put forth evidence that plaintiff’s plays all included the Sister character and, therefore, were based upon and derivative of LNC. Plaintiff’s “answers, conclusory denials” were not sufficient to overcome plaintiff’s evidence. Because the parties were joint authors of LNC and because plaintiff’s subsequent plays involving the Sister character were derivative of LNC, defendant was granted summary judgment regarding the demand for an accounting.