Rudnicki v. WPNA 1490 AM, No. 04 C 5719, Slip. Op. (N.D. Ill. Dec. 10, 2009) (Pallmeyer, J.).
Judge Pallmeyer granted plaintiff summary judgment of copyright registration of six of his Polish radio broadcasts. The Court also granted defendants summary judgment that plaintiff lacked standing to bring his copyright infringement suit. But the Court gave plaintiff thirty days to seek reconsideration if he was able to get an assignment of plaintiff’s radio broadcasts from his employer RadioZET during that time. The Court also granted in part defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s summary judgment declarations.
As an initial matter, the Court held that pursuant to the Berne Convention, Polish law controlled copyright ownership issues as the country most closely related to the work and that U.S. law controlled infringement issues.
The Court held that plaintiff’s radio news reports were protectable pursuant to Polish law, although the reported facts were not protectable. Furthermore, plaintiff’s reports dealt with political issues which is a type of reporting Polish law specifically provided should be compensated. Plaintiff’s six copyrighted broadcasts, therefore, were protectable and the copyrights were owned by plaintiff or his assignee.
Plaintiff’s contract with RadioZET provided a transfer of rights to RadioZET in plaintiff’s broadcasts that was "unlimited in time and space." Based upon that contract, plaintiff was not the exclusive copyright holder either in Poland or anywhere in the world where a copyright was held, including in the United States. The Court, however, gave plaintiff thirty days to get an assignment from RadioZET and seek reconsideration of the standing decision based upon the assignment.
Entitlement to Damage
Plaintiff’s deposition statement that he did not incur economic loss from defendant’s alleged infringement did not prevent plaintiff from an award of actual damages. The Court noted that actual damages could be determined in the range of $20-$38 per broadcast based upon what plaintiff was originally paid for his reports, including the copyrighted reports. If plaintiff proved all 53 alleged infringements that would result in damages of $1,060 to $2,014. The Court did not consider whether statutory damages were available.
The Court held that plaintiff had properly registered his copyright in the six broadcasts deposited with the Copyright Office.
Motion to Strike
The Court did not strike the declaration of a previously undisclosed witness because the witness was only required because the equipment required to playback recordings of the broadcasts at issue unexpectedly failed.
The Court did, however, strike portions of two declarations by plaintiff’s RadioZET supervisors. There was no evidence that the supervisors drafted or negotiated the contract. The fact that the witnesses were not disclosed in Rule 26 disclosures was not relevant, however, because they were disclosed during plaintiff’s deposition.