Peter Mayer Publishers Inc. v. Shilovskaya et al
ORDER: Adopting 38 Report and Recommendations. For the reasons stated above, Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 6, 2015 Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 38) is adopted to the extent that it recommends that Defendants' motion for summa ry judgment be denied, and concludes that the record is not sufficient to permit the Court to determine "reasonable compensation." The Clerk is directed to terminate the motion (Dkt. No. 27). It is hereby ORDERED that the Court will conduct a conference in this matter on April 9, 2015 at 10:45 a.m. in Courtroom 705 of the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, New York. SO ORDERED. ( Status Conference set for 4/9/2015 at 10:45 AM in Courtroom 705, 40 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007 before Judge Paul G. Gardephe.), Motions terminated: 27 MOTION for Summary Judgment . filed by Daria Shilovskaya. (Signed by Judge Paul G. Gardephe on 3/26/2015) (ama)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
PETER MA YER PUBLISHERS INC. d/b/a
- against -
3\7.-1 \ t~
12 Civ. 8867 (PGG) (HBP)
DARIA SHILOVSKA YA and SERGEY
PAUL G. GARDEPHE, U.S.D.J.:
This is a declaratory judgment action that involves a copyright dispute concerning
The Master and Margarita ("the Work"), the well-known Russian novel written by Mikhail
Bulgakov. Upon its initial publication in 1968, the Work entered the public domain for failure to
comply with the formalities of the United States Copyright Act. Ardis Publishers, the
predecessor-in-interest to Plaintiff Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., d/b/a Overlook Press, created
and published an English translation ("the Translation") of the Work and, in 1996, secured a
copyright to the Translation. Plaintiff, or its predecessor-in-interest, has been publishing the
Translation in printed form since that time. Defendants Daria Shilovskaya and Sergey
Shilovskiy- Bulgakov's descendants - hold a restored copyright interest in the Work as a result
of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act ("DRAA"). The URAA, codified at Section 104A of the
Copyright Act, restored copyrights to certain foreign works, but also offered safeguards to those
who, like Plaintiff, had relied on the public domain status of those works.
In an earlier ruling, this Court held that an eBook version of the Translation does
not constitute a new derivative work for purposes of Section 104A(d)(3)(B) of the Copyright Act
and therefore does not infringe on Defendants' restored copyright. Accordingly, the only
remaining issue in this case is Plaintiffs cause of action seeking a judicial determination of
compensation pursuant to Section 104A(d)(3)(B) of the Copyright Act. In response to the
Court's invitation to brief the compensation issue, Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment "on the amount of reasonable compensation due from Plaintiffs to Defendants pursuant
to 17 U.S.C. 104A(d)(3)(B)." (Def. Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary
Judgment ("Def. Br.") (Dkt. No. 29) at 5) This Court referred the motion to Magistrate Judge
Pitman for a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). (Dkt. No. 36)
On February 6, 2015, Judge Pitman issued an R&R in which he recommended
that the Court deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the issue of reasonable
compensation. (R&R (Dkt. No. 38)) Judge Pitman found that "[n]either side has offered
evidence sufficiently probative to demonstrate that there is only one royalty rate that constitutes
reasonable compensation." (Id. at 17-18) On February 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed timely written
objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 39) On February 23, 2015, Defendants filed a response to
Plaintiffs objections. (Dkt. No. 40) For the reasons set forth below, this Court concludes that
the record is not adequate to permit this Court to determine "reasonable compensation."
Accordingly, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be denied.
Bulgakov wrote the Work, which critics have lauded as one of the great novels of
the twentieth century, sometime before his death in 1940. (Joint Stipulation ("Joint Stip.") (Dkt.
No. 15-1) ~ 5) The Work was first published in 1968 when Bulgakov's heirs - predecessors-ininterest to Defendants - authorized its publication in France. (kh ~ 6) Because Bulgakov's heirs
Familiarity with this Court's prior orders is assumed.
did not comply with the formalities of American copyright law, the Work entered the public
domain when it was initially published. (Id.
Pursuant to the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1994 and which amended Section 104A of the Copyright
Act, U.S. copyright protection was restored to the Work as of January 1, 1996, the URAA's
date. Id. ifif 20-21; 17 U.S.C. § 104A(h)(2)(A).
In 1989, Ardis Publishers ("Ardis"), predecessors-in-interest to Plaintiff,
commissioned the English-language Translation. (Joint Stip. (Dkt. No. 15-1) if 9) Ardis began
publishing the Translation in hardcover and paperback in 1995 and registered a copyright for it
in 1996. (Id. ~if 10-11) In 1999, Ardis licensed the print publication rights to the Vintage
division of Random House, Inc., and Vintage continues to publish the Translation in paperback.
ilil if 12)
ilil if 8)
Plaintiff succeeded to all rights in the Translation when it purchased Ardis in 2001.
Because Ardis had relied on the public domain status of the Work when it
commissioned the Translation, the parties do not dispute that, pursuant to Section 104A, Plaintiff
is a reliance party whose printed Translation is a "derivative work" that may be exploited. Id.
if 24; see also
17 U.S.C. § 104A(d)(3). The parties further agree that Plaintiff has at all times
paid the Defendants a mutually agreed upon royalty for Plaintiff's continued publication of the
Translation in print form. (Joint Stip. (Dkt. No. 15-1) ~ 24)
No electronic version of the Translation currently exists, but Plaintiff intends to
publish an eBook version of the Translation. (Id.~~ 13-14) On December 6, 2012, Plaintiff filed
this action seeking a declaratory judgment that its planned electronic publication of the
Translation does not infringe any copyright of Defendants, as well as a judicial determination of
what reasonable compensation is due to Defendants for Plaintiff's lawful exploitation of its
copyright in electronic form. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No. 1) ~if 26, 30) In their Answer, Defendants
claimed that publication of an eBook version of the Translation would constitute a copyright
infringement. (Ans. (Dkt. No. 4) at 3-4) Defendants went on to request, however, that "[s]hould
the Court determine that the publication of the Translation of the Work in ebook form by the
Plaintiff is authorized by 17 U.S.C. [§] 104A(d)(3)(A), [the Court enter judgment] determining
pursuant to 17 U.S.C. [§] 104A(d)(3)(B) the appropriate compensation to Defendants for such
publication." (Id. at 4)
On March 31, 2014, this Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment
on the issue of infringement, declaring that Plaintiff has the right to publish the Translation in
electronic book ("eBook") form. (Memorandum Opinion and Order (Dkt. No. 22) at 2, 17) This
Court determined that creation of the proposed eBook version of the Translation would not result
in a new "derivative work" under the Copyright Act, and would not infringe any copyright
interest of the Defendants.
iliL at 17)
In the same Order, the Court set a briefing schedule on the
compensation issue, which had not previously been briefed by the parties.
In response to the Court's invitation to brief the compensation issue, Defendants
filed a motion for summary judgment "on the amount of reasonable compensation due from
Plaintiffs to Defendants pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 104A(d)(3)(B)." (Def. Br. (Dkt. No. 29) at 5)
Defendants argue that "reasonable compensation would be either a 35% royalty on the sale price
of an eBook to the consumer with an advance of $100,000.00 or a 70% royalty on that sale price
with no advance." (Id. at 16) Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion, arguing
that "reasonable compensation for Plaintiff's ebook translation [should be] based on the standard
market rate of 25 percent of net receipts for so long as Plaintiff's edition is the sole authorized
ebook, with the rate reduced pro rata as Defendants authorize other ebooks." (Pltf. Br. (Dkt. No.
34) at 9) Although the parties disagree as to what constitutes "reasonable compensation," they
''jointly request this Court to determine the amount of [reasonable] compensation after
consideration of the factors provided in subsection (d)(3)(B) [of 17 U.S.C. § 104A] in the light of
the evidence addressing those factors submitted by the parties." (Joint Stip. (Dkt. No. 15-1)
ii 29; Def. 56.l
Stmt. (Dkt. No. 33) ii 6; Pltf. 56.l Stmt. (Dkt. No. 35) ii 6)
In his February 6, 2015 R & R, Judge Pitman states that what constitutes
"reasonable compensation" is a question of fact, and that "neither [party] has offered evidence
sufficiently probative to demonstrate that there is only one royalty rate that constitutes
reasonable compensation." (R&R (Dkt. No. 3 8) at 10, 17-18) He therefore recommended that
summary judgment on the issue of reasonable compensation be denied. Mat 18) Judge Pitman
commented that "[i]t appears that the parties have lost sight of the procedural posture of the
case," and concluded that "[s]ummary judgment is inappropriate here because the record is too
meager to support the conclusion that a reasonable jury could only provide one answer to the
question of what constitutes reasonable compensation." (Id. at 12-13)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, this Court "may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). "To accept the report and recommendation ofa
magistrate, to which no timely objection has been made, a district court need only satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record." Nelson v. Smith, 618 F. Supp. 1186, 1189
(S.D.N.Y.1985) (citations omitted). Where, a party submits a timely objection to the report and
recommendation, the Court reviews those portions of the report to which the party objected
under a de novo standard. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3). "Objections that are 'merely
perfunctory responses argued in an attempt to engage the district court in a rehashing of the same
arguments set forth in the original [papers] will not suffice to invoke de novo review."' Phillips
v. Reed Grp., Ltd., 955 F. Supp. 2d 201, 211 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Vega v. Artuz, 2002 WL
31174466, at* 1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2002)) (alteration in Phillips). "In the event a party's
objections are conclusory or general, or simply reiterate original arguments, the district court
also reviews the Report and Recommendation for clear error." Id.
PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO THE R&R
Plaintiff objects to Judge Pitman's conclusion that factual issues preclude a
determination of reasonable compensation, and argues that "[t ]he publishing industry's standard
royalty rate for ebooks is not a fact in dispute." (Plaintiffs Objections to Report and
Recommendation ("Pltf. Obj.") (Dkt. No. 39) at 2) Plaintiff asserts that the undisputable
standard royalty rate for eBooks in the publishing market is 25% of net receipts. (Id. (citing
Carns Deel. (Dkt. No. 34-1) i! 6)) Plaintiff also contends that Defendants' submissions on the
compensation issue are "oflimited if any value in measuring reasonable compensation," because
the two agreements Defendants point to are not reliable measures of market value in the context
of this case. (Id. at 3) Finally, Plaintiff reiterates that this Court should decide the issue of
reasonable compensation, because the statute provides that - when parties cannot agree on
compensation - compensation may be set with the assistance of a district court. (Id. at 4)
Plaintiff notes that "[t]hough styled as a motion for summary judgment, [Defendants'} request
simply sought a judicial determination pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 104A." Qd. at 4 n.2) Plaintiff
thus requests that the Court set compensation in the amount of 25% of net receipts, so long as
Plaintiffs edition of the eBook translation is the "sole authorized ebook, with the rate reduced
pro rata as Defendants authorize other ebooks." (Id. at 4-5)
On February 23, 2015, Defendants filed a response to Plaintiffs objections, in
which they "concur with Plaintiff that the Court should reject the Magistrate's recommendation
insofar as the Magistrate declined to determine the issue presented, i.e., the reasonable
compensation that Plaintiff must pay to the Defendants for the right to publish an ebook edition
of [the Work]." (Defendants' Objections to Report and Recommendation ("Def. Obj.") (Dkt.
No. 40) at 2) However, Defendants disagree with Plaintiffs assertion that 25% of net receipts in
royalties is reasonable compensation. (Id.) Defendants also propose a different method for
calculating "reasonable compensation" than that set forth in their moving papers. Defendants
now argue that reasonable compensation is "an equal division of the net proceeds that Plaintiff
will receive from its sublicense of ebook rights in the Work." (Id. at 3)
Section 104A(d)(3)(A) provides that a reliance party such as Plaintiff
may continue to exploit [a] derivative work for the duration of the restored
copyright ifthe reliance party pays to the owner of the restored copyright
reasonable compensation for conduct which would be subject to a remedy for
infringement but for the provisions of this paragraph.
17 U .S.C. § 104A(d)(3)(A). A reliance party thus "may indefinitely exploit the derivation upon
payment to the copyright holder of 'reasonable compensation,' to be set by a district judge if the
parties cannot agree." Golan v. Holder, 132 S. Ct. 873, 883 (2012) (citing§ 104A(d)(3)). "In
other words, a person who created a new work of art by borrowing from a work then in the
public domain but now protected by virtue of Section 104A restoration cannot be prohibited
from exploiting that independent creation, but can be required to pay a licensing-type fee."
Hoepker v. Kruger, 200 F. Supp. 2d 340, 346 (S.D.N.Y. 2002).
The Copyright Act does not define "reasonable compensation," and provides
limited guidance for making a "reasonable compensation" determination:
In the absence of an agreement between the parties, the amount of such
compensation shall be determined by an action in United States district court, and
shall reflect any harm to the actual or potential market for or value of the restored
work from the reliance party's continued exploitation of the work, as well as
compensation for the relative contributions of expression of the author of the
restored work and the reliance party to the derivative work.
17 U.S.C. § 104A(d)(3)(B).
This Court agrees with Judge Pitman that the record is not adequate at this point
to permit the Court to determine "reasonable compensation." Defendants' shifting position
concerning the proper compensation model dooms their motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiffs submissions are likewise not sufficient. Because the parties' submissions are neither
sufficiently detailed nor sufficiently reliable for this Court to make a determination concerning
"reasonable compensation," further submissions must be made before the issue can be resolved.
For the reasons stated above, Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 6, 2015 Report
and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 38) is adopted to the extent that it recommends that Defendants'
motion for summary judgment be denied, and concludes that the record is not sufficient to permit
the Court to determine "reasonable compensation." The Clerk is directed to terminate the
motion (Dkt. No. 27).
It is hereby ORDERED that the Court will conduct a conference in this matter on
April 9, 2015 at 10:45 a.m. in Courtroom 705 of the Thurgood Marshall United States
Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, New York.
Dated: New York, New York
March 26, 2015
United States District Judge
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