Wednesday, May 04, 2011

9th Circuit (en banc): Copyright Act not preempt California implied contract claim based on submission of "idea" for TV show

The en banc 9th Circuit today held that copyright law doesn’t preempt a writer’s “implied contract” claim under California law that he submitted materials containing an idea for a TV show to a studio or producers with the understanding that he'd be compensated by receiving a share of the profits if the studio or producers use the idea.

The dissent argued that there’s a difference between state law claims that the writer: (a) sold the idea/concept with the implied understanding he’d be compensated (dissent says not preempted because it’s a classic implied contract); and (b) presented the idea with the implied understanding that he was retaining control over the idea unless the studio used it, in which case he’d be compensated (dissent says preempted because the writer is retaining control, which is closer to what copyright law protects). The dissent thought this writer’s claim was closer to (b).

The case is Montz v. Pilgrim Films & Television, Inc., No. 08-56954 (9th Cir. May 4, 2011) (en banc).

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