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Carol Wilson Fine Arts, Inc. v. Qian

United States District Court, D. Oregon

December 3, 2014

CAROL WILSON FINE ARTS, INC., an Oregon corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
ZIFEN QIAN, an individual, Defendant

For Plaintiff: Stephen J. Joncus, Norman A. Sfeir, Klarquist Sparkman, LLP, Portland, Oregon.

Zifen Qian, Defendant, Pro se, West Linn, Oregon.

Page 1152

OPINION AND ORDER

Ann Aiken, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Carol Wilson Fine Arts, Inc. filed two partial motions for summary judgment, the first pertaining to its declaratory judgment claim and the second relating

Page 1153

to its copyright infringement claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Defendant Zifen Qian cross-moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's first motion is granted and the parties' remaining motions are denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an Oregon corporation in the business of designing, marketing, and selling stationary and greeting cards that incorporate original paintings and illustrations created by its in-house artists or independent contractors. In 1992, plaintiff hired defendant and the parties entered into a written employment agreement. Defendant's initial job title was " Artist," although he was later promoted to " Senior Artist." In September 2013, plaintiff terminated defendant's employment, at which time the parties executed a severance agreement.

During the course of his 21 years of employment, defendant created numerous original artworks that were utilized in plaintiff's products. The designs at issue in the case at bar consist of 21 different floral watercolor paintings (" Works" ), sixteen of which are registered to plaintiff with the United States Copyright office.[1] After his employment ceased, defendant began displaying the Works on his personal website.

Plaintiff became aware of defendant's actions in January 2014. In February 2014, plaintiff's counsel sent defendant a cease-and-desist letter, expressing a desire to resolve this dispute amicably. Defendant responded immediately, refusing to remove images of the Works from his website. In March 2014, plaintiff sent defendant another letter, providing additional authorities and again requesting that defendant stop engaging in any conduct that infringed on plaintiff's copyrights. Later that month, defendant notified plaintiff that he owned rights to the Works and therefore did have to curtail his usage now or in the future.

On April 9, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, alleging claims for declaratory judgment and copyright infringement. As relief, plaintiff seeks a declaration that the Works were " made for hire" under the Copyright Act, a Court order permanently enjoining future infringement and requiring the return of any original Works in defendant's possession, statutory damages in the minimum amount of $750 per copyrighted work, and impoundment of the infringing copies. On June 27, 2014, plaintiff moved for summary judgment on its declaratory judgment claim.[2] On August 7, 2014, plaintiff moved for summary judgment as to its copyright infringement claim. That same day, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that he owns copyrights in the disputed Works. Accordingly, defendant requests a Court order indicating that he " owns copyrights of all such paintings" and requiring plaintiff to " withdraw immediately its unlawful registrations of copyrights," as well as " [a]n award of One Million Dollars ($1,000,000)." Def.'s Cross-Mot. Summ. J. 6-7.[3]

Page 1154

On September 24, 2014, the parties tried unsuccessfully, via judicial settlement, to resolve their dispute. On September 26, 2014, defendant filed a supplemental brief, without leave from the Court, in which he reiterated his previous arguments and requested an additional $5,000,000 in damages as " unpaid compensation from the sales of [his] paintings published on [plaintiff's] ...


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