Modern Dog Design Sues Target and Disney for Copyright Infringement of Dog Artwork

Seattle design studio Modern Dog Design Company filed a complaint against Target and Disney (pdf), a few of their subsidiaries and others for infringing the copyright on some of Modern Dog’s dog drawings.  Modern Dog’s book, “Modern Dog:  20 Years of Poster Art,” contains the material that was allegedly infringed.  The inside front cover of the book consists of drawings of the heads of dogs of various breeds and is entitled “Dogs We Know.”  The inside back cover of the book likewise consists of drawings of the heads of dogs of various breeds and is entitled “Dogs We Don’t Know.”  (Dogs We Know, Dogs We Don’t Know, Exhibit 5 to the complaint, pdf).  The defendants are accused of infringing Modern Dog’s copyright in the drawings of 26 of the 136 total drawings on the inside front and back covers.

The complaint alleges that the defendants Target and Disney partnered in producing a line of clothing called “D-Signed” and that they infringed Modern Dog’s copyright in the dog drawings in three ways:

The complaint alleges that the defendants had access to Modern Dog’s copyrighted work and that there is actual copying, striking similarity or substantial similarity. 

Access.  Modern Dog published its book in 2008 and received its copyright registration on February 22, 2010.  Target began offering the tee shirt for sale sometime before September 2011.  “Sharpay” is a popular Disney character and the tee shirt is part of a line of clothing promoting the Disney movie, “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure.”  Modern Dog alleges that defendants had access to its book through the “Look Inside!” feature on Amazon.com’s website.  The Look Inside! feature allows web surfers to see some of the book’s content.  Modern Dog also alleges that its book has had widespread circulation and availability and that is another source for defendants’ access.

Copying, Striking Similarity, Substantial Similarity.  Modern Dog alleges that these are indicated by comparing its work with the defendants’ work.  (Exhibits 9 -11, pdf).  Modern Dog alleges that all of the drawings on defendants’ tee shirt came from its copyrighted book.

Modern Dog alleged that defendants copied its drawings and created derivative works.  Modern Dog requested an injunction preventing defendants from selling or disposing of the tee shirts, impoundment of the shirts and shirt-making materials, actual damages, statutory damages, attorney’s fees and a finding of willful copyright infringement. 

Modern Dog also alleged violation of 17 U.S.C. §1201 Copyright Protection and Management Systems, et seq.  It argues that its book contained an express copyright notice, that the copyright notice is “copyright management information” under the statute, and that defendants violated the statute by intentionally removing the copyright information.

This case is Modern Dog Design v. Target Corporation, et al., No. 11-1816 TSZ, Western District of Washington, Seattle.

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