Copyright Case

Canada Hockey LLC v. Texas A&M University

Sports author filed a lawsuit against state university, alleging a university entity copied an unpublished chapter of his work and posted it to their website without permission. Defendants moved to dismiss, claiming sovereign immunity.

The Southern District of Texas granted the motion to dismiss for all except one defendant. Claims against the Texas A&M Athletic Department were dismissed because the department is not a separate legal entity and lacks capacity to be sued. The ability to substitute the University itself as the proper defendant failed because it is a state entity and protected by sovereign immunity.

The Court declined to extend the Supreme Court’s holding in Central Virginia Community College v. Katz546 US 356 (2006), which held that Congress can abrogate state sovereign immunity under its Article I Bankruptcy Clause power, to copyright claims. In addition, because the district court is in the Fifth Circuit, it is bound by that court’s Chavez holding, which held that Congress did not properly abrogate state sovereign immunity for infringement claims when it passed the Copyright Remedies Clarification Act–but the Court does say in a footnote: “Although Plaintiffs ask the Court to circumvent binding precedent, and this Court is of course bound by the Fifth Circuit precedent before it and ultimately declines to adopt their reasoning, the Court thought the Plaintiffs’ arguments were worth noting.”

Plaintiff’s state takings claims were dismissed as barred by sovereign immunity, and its Federal takings claims were dismissed for not being ripe because plaintiffs failed to allege that they pursued claims in state court under Texas’s inverse condemnation procedure, which is required before alleging a federal takings claim.

Plaintiff also brought the same claims against three individual employees of the Department acting in their individual capacities. The Court denied dismissal of direct and contributory infringement and violations of 1202 against one of them, Marquardt (who was alleged to have actually found Bynum’s manuscript and had his secretary upload it to the University’s website), finding that the complaint adequately alleged facts showing he did not have qualified immunity. Claims against the other two individuals were dismissed.

Procedural History

Status: District Court for the Southern District of Texas affirmed motion to dismiss in part and denied motion in part. (March 29, 2019)

Order on Motion to Dismiss (March 29, 2019)

Sur-reply in opposition to defendants’ motion to dismiss (May 21, 2018)

Motion for leave to file sur-reply opposing defendants’ motion to dismiss (May 21, 2018)

Plaintiffs’ Response in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (November 30, 2017)

First Amended Complaint (April 17, 2017)

Complaint (Jan. 19, 2017)

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