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Television Education, Inc. v. Contractors Intelligence School, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2017




         Plaintiff Television Education, Inc. brought this action against defendants Contractors Intelligence School, Contractors Publisher, Leonid Vorontsov, and Oksana Vorontsov (collectively “defendants”) for alleged copyright infringement. (Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) (Docket No. 45).) Before the court is plaintiff's Motion for a preliminary injunction. (Pl.'s Mot. (Docket No. 49).)

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiff sells contractor's license exam preparation materials to private schools and businesses. (Id., Mem. (“Pl.'s Mem.”) at 1 (Docket No. 19).) Plaintiff allegedly created and owns copyrights to a number of test preparation manuals and practice exams, and has “pending copyright applications in numerous other educational courses and materials.” (SAC ¶¶ 10, 15.) From 2011 through 2014, plaintiff executed agreements to lease and sell its educational materials to Contractors Intelligence School “for use in [the school's] license examination preparation courses.” (Id. ¶ 18.) According to plaintiff, the agreements stated that Contractors Intelligence School “will not ‘copy, plagiarize, paraphrase, or duplicate' any of the educational materials owned by Television Education . . . or allow any of its employees or any other person or firm to do so.” (Id. ¶ 20.)

         From 2010 to 2016, Contractors Intelligence School allegedly “cop[ied], ” “plagiariz[ed], ” and sold “knock-offs” of plaintiff's materials in violation of the parties' agreements and federal copyright law.[1] (See Id. at 10-17.) The “knock-offs” were allegedly marketed as original works of Contractors Publisher, an affiliate of Contractors Intelligence School. (Id. Ex. A, Cease and Desist Letter at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that defendants continue to plagiarize and create “knock-offs” of its materials despite receiving its cease and desist letter in June 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.)

         On June 23, 2016, plaintiff filed this action. Plaintiff first amended its complaint in September 2016 and then again in April 2017. Plaintiff's second amended Complaint alleges a single cause of action “for copyright infringement under . . . 17 U.S.C. section 101 et seq.” (Id. ¶ 1.) The court previously granted, in part, plaintiff's Motion to strike various affirmative defenses from defendants' Answer. (See December 12, 2016 Order (Docket No. 27).) Plaintiff now moves to preliminarily enjoin defendants from copying or plagiarizing plaintiff's materials and disseminating or using the purportedly copied manuals and test. (Pl.'s Mot.)

         II. Discussion

         Injunctive relief is “an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (citation omitted). In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must establish (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in its favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).

         A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants infringed plaintiff's copyrights when they used practice test questions and manuals that contain material that are substantially similar or verbatim copies of plaintiff's material. To state a claim for copyright infringement, the plaintiff must show: “(1) ownership of a valid copyright; and (2) that the defendant violated the copyright owner's exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.” Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing 17 U.S.C. § 501(a)).

         1. Ownership of a Valid Copyright

         A certificate of registration is “prima facie evidence of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate.” 17 U.S.C. § 410(c). Plaintiff has sufficiently demonstrated ownership of the copyrighted manuals by providing certifications of registration issued by the Copyright Office. (See Cohen Decl. ¶¶ 4-5, Exs. A-B.)

         Plaintiff also claims copyright ownership over test questions that defendants allegedly hacked to obtain in 2010. Defendants no longer use their 2010 practice test, but plaintiff argues that defendants' 2016 practice test uses several dozen questions that are substantially similar or verbatim copies of defendants' 2010 questions.

         Plaintiff provides no evidence that it has a valid copyright over the allegedly hacked 2010 questions. It has not provided its version of the test that it claims defendants copied in 2010. Plaintiff submitted both the 2010 and 2016 versions of defendants' questions and a side-by-side comparison of the two versions, (Cohen Decl., Exs. K-M), but provides no evidence that these questions were part of plaintiff's ...

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