Diary of a Copyright Infringement Lawsuit – 3 (The Initial Filing Docs)

After you choose the jurisdiction where you are going to proceed, you then have to file certain documents and pay some money to initiate your copyright infringement lawsuit.  In most district courts, you submit your:

  1. Complaint
  2. Cover Sheet
  3. $350 filing fee
  4. Certification of Interested Parties

Some courts also require you to file a form that is sent to the U.S. Copyright Office to report that a lawsuit has been filed with respect to the copyrights at issue.  For other courts, the clerk will prepare the report.

The Complaint sets forth your claims against the defendant (the alleged infringer) and what you want the court to do (demands).  It also must include a statement that the court has jurisdiction (the authority to rule) of the matter, both for the copyright infringement claim (known as subject matter jurisdiction) and for the defendant (known as personal jurisdiction).  You also must assert that the venue (the particular district court) is proper.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) set the rules on civil lawsuits.  To comply with Rule 8(a) for copyright infringement claims, you must:

  1. identify the copyrighted work at issue;
  2. state that the plaintiff owns the copyrighted work;
  3. assert that the copyright for the work has been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office (at least provide the registration number, but it’s better to attach the Certificate of Registration); and
  4. allege how and when the defendant infringed the copyright (it’s helpful to include an exhibit showing the infringement).

For example, check the Complaint filed in the Glen E. Friedman v. Thierry Guetta a/k/a Mr. Brainwash, et al. copyright infringement case.  Photographers often have other claims to make against the defendant, including claims for violating the DMCA for removal of copyright management information or breach of contract.  Those claims must be included in the complaint, as well, such as here in this Corbis complaint.

The cover sheet sets forth a quick summary of the case, such as this one for the Friedman case.  As shown in the Friedman case, the Certification and Notice of Interested Persons identifies all those who might have a stake in the case so that the judge and other court personnel can ensure that they won’t be biased toward any party.

While each court has slightly different formats and required documents, they are basically the same.  After they are filed, you are on your way to protecting your copyrights!

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