Eleventh Circuit Rules: Copyright Act Does Not Shield Cruise Line

May 16, 2023

The Eleventh Circuit has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss 20 of 21 claims in a theater production company’s lawsuit against Celebrity Cruises Inc. because the lower court correctly found that the federal Copyright Act did not completely preempt a state unjust enrichment claim.

The Southern District of Florida was correct when it remanded Poet Theatricals Marine LLC’s unjust enrichment claim to state court, according to an unpublished opinion issued on Monday by a three-member appellate court panel. With the exception of the state unjust enrichment claim, all of Poet’s claims were denied by the district court.

A state law claim is preempted and removable, according to the panel, if a federal statute establishes an exclusive cause of action and the state law claim falls under that federal cause of action. However, the panel stated that Celebrity’s argument that the Copyright Act overrules state law completely failed to persuade the district court, which correctly ruled that the unjust enrichment claim was outside the scope of the act.

The panel stated, “Poet’s unjust enrichment claim fell outside of that cause of action, even if the Copyright Act created an exclusive federal cause of action.” The claim was neither federal nor removable because Poet’s unjust enrichment was not completely preempted. As the locale court closed, it had a place in state court.”

The panel continued by stating that every circuit that has considered the issue has concluded that the act provides an exclusive federal cause of action and is completely preemptive. However, the panel also stated that it did not have to decide the issue in Poet’s case because both sides agree that the theater company never registered its copyrights.

“This isn’t a case, then, at that point, where Writer might have brought a government guarantee however didn’t to stay away from bureaucratic court,” the board said. ‘ The poet was unable to file a copyright claim; It was not registered.”

Prior to oral arguments in January 2022, Celebrity had informed the Eleventh Circuit that the theater production company’s unjust enrichment claim was preempted by the Copyright Act and belonged in federal court due to allegations that the cruise line used the production company’s videos and posters improperly after their agreement ended.

Celebrity’s attorney John Carey told the appellate panel that the works of Poet Theatricals Marine LLC were copyrightable and covered by the Copyright Act, which generally prohibits state law claims regarding copyrightable materials.

Carey stated, “They call them artistic works in the complaint, and the expired license agreement was a copyright license agreement.” This claim is purely a copying claim.”

Celebrity noted on appeal that the Eleventh Circuit has not yet addressed the issue of unjust enrichment claims, despite the fact that other circuit courts have held that the Copyright Act preempts such claims.

Poet’s attorney, Tim Crutchfield of Mintz Truppman PA, argued that Celebrity was granted permission to use Poet’s intellectual property for a limited time and promised to return it.

“They were unjustifiably advanced,” Crutchfield said during oral contentions. ” That is a state court question since they kept on utilizing it without paying us. This understanding lays out assumption for installment, and they didn’t make that installment while they kept on utilizing the property.”

Monday, Crutchfield told Law360 that the Eleventh Circuit acknowledged that its decision to apply the complete preemption doctrine only when a plaintiff could have brought a claim under an exclusive cause of action was inconsistent with the reasoning of other circuits.

“For this situation, Writer isn’t safeguarding freedoms laid out by copyright enrollment,” Crutchfield said. ” It is safeguarding rights that Celebrity Cruises acknowledged in a contract but completely ignored after the contract’s term ended. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that it did not need to address the larger question of whether it agrees with the four circuit courts that have held that the complete preemption doctrine applies to the Copyright Act because it recognized that Poet’s claim for unjust enrichment could not be covered by the complete preemption doctrine.

VIP contracted with Artist somewhere in the range of 2007 and 2012 to create and perform shows on five of the organization’s boats. The last agreement finished in 2016, as per Artist’s brief.

However, Poet claimed that even after the partnership ended, Celebrity continued to promote its cruises by using still photographs and video recordings of the Poet shows. In September 2020, the theater company filed a state court lawsuit against Celebrity, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., its parent company, and nine travel agencies, claiming conversion and unjust enrichment. After that, the defendants took the case to federal court and argued that the Copyright Act preempted them.

The strained relationship between the companies led to more than just the suit. Artist recently sued Superstar in 2017 asserting that the voyage line had taken out Writer’s property — including sets, ensembles, lighting, projectors, winches and other gear — and returned them in an unsuitable condition. The theater company also claimed that Celebrity stole trade secrets, including a unique training system that allowed Poet to hire non-acrobatic performers and train them in a fraction of the time normally required and a proprietary digital tracking and management system for the equipment used in the shows.

Poet’s claims that Celebrity Cruises stole its trade secrets for aerial acrobatics shows on cruise ships by terminating their contract and producing the shows in-house were revived in that suit in October 2020 by an appeals court in Florida.

A request for clarification was sent to Celebrity and Royal Caribbean representatives on Monday, but they did not immediately respond.

A request for clarification was sent to the cruise line counsel on Monday, but they did not immediately respond.

Charles R. Wilson, Robert J. Luck, and Barbara Lagoa served as Eleventh Circuit judges.

Big name is addressed by David M. Levine of Sanchez Fischer Levine LLP and John C. Carey, Juan J. Rodriguez and Nicholas J. Doyle of Carey Rodriguez Milian LLP.

Artist is addressed by Dim Delegate of Kramer Green Zuckerman Greene and Buchsbaum Dad and Imprint Mintz and Timothy Crutchfield of Mintz Truppman Dad.

Poet Theatricals Marine LLC et al. is the case. versus Celebrity Cruises Inc. and Others, case number 21-10410, in the U.S. Court of Allures for the 11th Circuit.

Source – Law360

Leave a Comment