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Oppenheimer v. Morgan

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

June 26, 2019

DAVID OPPENHEIMER, Plaintiff,
v.
HARLEY OBOLENSKY MORGAN; and CAPITAL AT PLAY, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

          MARTIN REIDINGER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Harley Obolensky Morgan's (“Morgan”) Motion to Dismiss the Complaint [Docs. 12, 13].

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 3, 2019, the Plaintiff David Oppenheimer (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against the Defendants Morgan and Capital at Play, Inc. (“Capital” and collectively, the “Defendants”), asserting claims under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq. and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), 17 U.S.C. §§ 1202, et seq. [Doc. 1]. In his Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants infringed two of his copyrights when they published two of his copyrighted photographs on their website. [Id. at ¶ 11]. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges the Defendants either non-willfully (Count I) or willfully (Count II) infringed on his copyrights by publishing the photographs and violated the DMCA by removing copyright management information from the photographs (Count III). The Plaintiff also alleges Defendant Morgan is liable under theories of contributory copyright infringement (Count IV) and vicarious liability (Count V).

         Defendant Morgan now seeks the dismissal of this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted. [Doc. 12, 13]. The Plaintiff has filed an opposition to Defendant Morgan's motion [Doc. 15], to which Defendant Morgan has replied [Doc. 16].

         Having been fully briefed, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The central issue for resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the claims state a plausible claim for relief. See Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 189 (4th Cir. 2009). In considering Defendant Morgan's motion, the Court accepts the allegations in the Complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009); Giacomelli, 588 F.3d at 190-92. Although the Court accepts well-pled facts as true, it is not required to accept “legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, and bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. . . .” Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 225; see also Giacomelli, 588 F.3d at 189.

         The claims need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but must contain sufficient factual allegations to suggest the required elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 256. “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Nor will mere labels and legal conclusions suffice. Id.

         The complaint is required to contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570; see also Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 255. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see also Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 255. The mere possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully is insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 256; Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). Ultimately, the well-pled factual allegations must move a plaintiff's claim from possible to plausible. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; Consumeraffairs.com, 591 F.3d at 256.

         III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Taking the well-pleaded factual allegations of the Complaint as true, the following is a summary of the relevant facts.[1]

         The Plaintiff is a professional photographer who takes photographs and publishes them to a website for sale. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 6-7]. The Plaintiff created the two photographs at issue here. [Id. at ¶ 6]. Before uploading the two photographs, the Plaintiff obtained copyrights for them and added copyright management information, including a watermark, a caption, and metadata. [Id. at ¶¶ 8, 9, 10, 23].

         At some point, the Plaintiff discovered that the two copyrighted photographs had been uploaded to the Capital website. [Id. at ¶¶ 11-12]. The uploaded photographs were missing some of the copyright management information the Plaintiff added when he published the photographs on his website. [Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 10-11]. On September 14, 2018, the Plaintiff notified the ...


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