25 October 2018Copyright

NRA receives mixed news in copyright case

The US National Rifle Association ( NRA) has received a mixed ruling in a copyright infringement claim involving a London-based sculptor.

On Tuesday, October 23, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois shot down the NRA’s motion to dismiss the case. However, it did grant a request to transfer it to another court.

The dispute dates back to 2017, when the NRA published a “controversial video advertisement” which included an image of Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “Cloud Gate”, which has been nicknamed ‘The Bean’ because of its shape.

The work has been the centrepiece of the AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago since 2006.

Kapoor’s sculpture was registered with the US Copyright Office in 2016 (number VA 1-983-425).

As reported by WIPR, Kapoor filed a copyright infringement claim against the NRA at the Illinois district court on June 19 in light of the advertisement.

However, the NRA sought to dismiss the complaint on the basis that the court lacked general or specific jurisdiction over the association. Alternatively, the NRA, which is based in Fairfax, Virginia, asked for the case to be transferred to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Kapoor argued that he had established a prima facie case showing specific jurisdiction.

According to the district court, the key question in evaluating the specific jurisdiction is whether it is “fair and reasonable to call the defendant into the state’s courts to answer the plaintiff’s claim”.

“To answer this question in the affirmative, a defendant’s contacts with the forum state must directly relate to or arise out of the challenged conduct,” explained the court.

In response to the allegations, the NRA said that it should not be subject to specific personal jurisdiction because its video advertisement was distributed across the nation, rather than specifically targeting Illinois.

Meanwhile, Kapoor argued that the NRA should be subject to personal jurisdiction in the state because the video advertisement included footage of the sculpture which was taken without authorisation in the jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, the court cited the Copyright Act, which prohibits the unauthorised distribution or reproduction of a copyright-protected work. As it is “undisputed” that the footage of the sculpture was taken in Illinois, the NRA’s contacts with the state directly arise from the filming of “Cloud Gate”, ruled the court.

However, the NRA claimed that the video advertisement showing the sculpture was actually taken by a third-party photographer who did not work for the NRA. Kapoor disagreed and said that the photographer was an “agent” of the NRA.

Although the court did not dismiss the case, it did agree to transfer it to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia because that is a “more convenient forum in which to litigate this case”.

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More on this story

11 December 2018   British sculptor Anish Kapoor has said he is “pleased to declare victory” over the US National Rifle Association in a copyright dispute centring on one of his works.