Apparently not according to the Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit. In the case of Unclaimed Property Recovery Service et al v. Kaplan, former Plaintiffs in a Class Action lawsuit who had registered the Complaint and supporting documentation with the Copyright Register, sued their former lawyer for copyright infringement upon his use of the pleadings in filing an Amended Complaint on behalf of the remaining Plaintiffs in the revived Class Action lawsuit styled Frankel v. Cole.
The former Class Plaintiffs claimed to have revoked the authority of Kaplan to use the pleadings on behalf of the remaining Class Plaintiffs. The District Court dismissed the lawsuit for failure to state a claim holding that the former Plaintiffs had granted Kaplan an irrevocable implied license to file the pleadings. The Appeals Court, in a case of first impression, affirmed holding that an authorization of this type conveys, not only to the authorized party, but to all present and future attorneys and to the Court, an irrevocable authorization to use the document in the litigation thereafter.
The Court reasoned that litigation cannot be successfully conducted unless parties and counsel are allowed to freely use the documents, both at trial and appellate levels. In a footnote, the Court went on to say they were not suggesting that permission of the copyright holder is needed for use of a copyrighted document in litigation as this opinion only addressed the withdrawal of previous authorization. Had this been the case, the Court may have considered a fair use argument to support such use. What do you think? As always, your comments are greatly appreciated.