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Court affirms judgment in school district's favor

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of Indianapolis Public Schools in a copyright infringement case, but first had to decide whether it could proceed on the merits.
 
In Angela E. Brooks-Ngwenya v. Indianapolis Public Schools, No. 08-1973, Angela Brooks-Ngwenya sued the school system after she was fired claiming copyright infringement over the school's use of a program that she developed for the school, and employment discrimination. Her discrimination claims were barred because they had already been settled in a previous suit.

While working at a middle school, Brooks-Ngwenya developed "Transitioning into Responsible Students" or TIRS, which she claimed IPS promised to buy and to hire her as a full-time permanent classroom coordinator if the program was successful. The school continued to use TIRS after she was fired and didn't purchase the program.

In the suit that settled, she had claimed copyright infringement, but that issue was dismissed without prejudice. She renewed her claims in District Court in 2007. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of IPS, ruling she couldn't win on the copyright claim because registration is a prerequisite to file a suit and her application to register TIRS was rejected by the Copyright Office. The office later approved her application.

In order to rule on Brooks-Ngwenya's suit, the per curium court had to decide whether she could proceed with her copyright infringement claim. The 7th Circuit examined the requirements under 17 U.S.C. Section 411(a), which say an applicant must inform the Register of Copyrights about any suit. Even though there's no evidence she sent notice of the suit, the purpose of the notification requirement was fulfilled, the per curium court ruled.

"The district court should have insisted on Brooks-Ngwenya's compliance with the requirement that she notify the Copyright Office about her lawsuit. Otherwise the Register would have no opportunity to choose to defend the decision to deny registration. But the point is now academic, because the Register did weigh in during the litigation, not by intervening but by granting Brooks-Ngwenya's renewed application," wrote the court. "We are free to recognize that fact even though the district court was incorrectly persuaded by IPS that it could not."

The record showed Brooks-Ngwenya didn't prove or even try to prove IPS copied any of the material protected by the copyright and copyright protection doesn't apply to an idea but to the original expression of it, wrote the court.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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