By Eric Schweibenz
On June 7, 2013, E.T. Radcliffe, LLC of Dallas, Texas (“Radcliffe”) and Emir Tiar of Coto De Caza, California (“Tiar”) (collectively, the “Complainants”) filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to Section 337.

The complaint alleges that The Walt Disney Company of Burbank, California (“Disney”), Thunderbird Films, Inc. of Los Angeles, California (“Thunderbird”), and Mindset Television, Inc. of Canada (“Mindset”) (collectively, the “Proposed Respondents”) have engaged in unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation of articles that infringe registered copyrights directed to certain literary works for television production. 

According to the complaint, Tiar created a television pilot script, character analysis, and episode guide for a children’s television program entitled Student Teacher.  These literary works were then given to a well-known producer related to Thunderbird.  The complaint states that Tiar’s script, character analysis, and episode guide were subsequently copied, distributed, and modified to produce a television program in Canada called Mr. Young.  According to the complaint, Mr. Young is currently being imported from Canada into the U.S. and aired on the Disney Channel.

The intellectual property at issue includes various original literary works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office and assigned to Radcliffe.  These works include Student Teacher [with Show Bible] (Reg. No. PAU003415849), Student Teacher Derivative Work (Reg. No. TXU001832727), and Student Teacher Show Bible (Reg. No. PAU003639268).  The complaint describes Student Teacher as a comedy about a middle school student named Mattie Drake who becomes the teacher of his class.

The complaint alleges that Mr. Young is produced and filmed in Vancouver, Canada by Thunderbird.  According to the complaint, in or around September 2011, Disney announced that it had purchased the rights to Mr. Young and would broadcast the program on Disney XD throughout the U.S.  The complaint states that Disney is, in fact, importing the program for broadcast in the U.S.  The complaint describes the story of Mr. Young, where a student becomes teacher of his class, as “identical” to the story presented in the intellectual property related to Student Teacher.  According to the complaint, Adam Young, like Mattie Drake, is the teacher of a class of students his own age.  Moreover, as in Student Teacher, the underlying conflict of Adam’s interactions with his elder colleagues and his internal conflict between the roles of teacher and friend to his students comprise the main plot of the show.

Regarding domestic industry, the Complainants allege that there is “an industry” pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1337(a)(1)(A) composed of authors, agents, and producers who write, market, and produce programs for television.  The complaint states that authors within the industry have made significant investments in labor and capital to create their literary works.  The complaint further states that every aspect of this industry is harmed “when unethical agents and producers use unfair methods of competition to create programs based on the works of others.”

The Complainants further allege that a domestic industry exists in the Student Teacher intellectual property pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1337(a)(1)(B).  According to the complaint, Tiar invested significant labor and capital to create the Student Teacher works through the investment in hardware and software necessary to produce the literary works as well as the intellectual creativity in the composition of characters, scenes, dialogues, and events.  He further made a substantial investment in research needed to compose quality works so that the content of the writings is appealing, captivating, and believable to an outside reader.  The complaint further alleges that Radcliffe has invested a substantial amount in acquiring the works and has subsequently licensed the rights for Student Teacher to Kindle Direct Publishing for publication and resale through Amazon.com, Inc.’s self-publication technology.

As to related litigation, the Complainants state that they filed a cause of action against some of the Proposed Respondents in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in October 2012, but that that case was dismissed without prejudice in March 2013.  The Complainants also refer to a related lawsuit against other entities.

With respect to potential remedy, the Complainants request that the Commission invoke all available remedies under Section 337, including exclusion from entry, exclusion during the investigation, cease and desist orders, and forfeiture.