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   Author  Topic: contract dispute or copyright infringement  (Read 571 times)
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contract dispute or copyright infringement
« on: Jan 8th, 2006, 6:31pm »
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A small consulting group proposed a project to a big market local newspaper.  At the first meeting, the newspaper representatives received a proposal that clearly outlined our rates.
 
At a second meeting the CEO of the company attended and at that meeting we distributed the proposal (same one as first meeting), a projected project budget and a contract.  At that meeting the CEO gave the verbal go ahead and the newspaper pledged start-up money, which was paid.
 
The consulting group began work while the project details were negotiated.  Almost 1 month into the project the lead negotiator for the newspaper requested a separate agreement, that would only cover an agreed upon trial period.  A separate agreement that covered the trial period was prepared with the same basic terms as contained in the cosulting group's contract.  Several weeks later the newspaper's negotiator sent a totally new agreement by email that stated that the consulting group would not be paid for the trial period.  Of course we never, ever, ever would agree to that, but we did point out to the negotiator that based on OUR hourly rate and the changes to the project we could still live with the new budget.  The consulting group now proposed that the new budget would be divided over the period of the contract (including the trial period) and the first bill would arrive at the end of the trial.
 
In the interim, the consulting group began publishing a special insert for a special group of readers that appeared for a month of weekdays.  About 3 weeks before the end of the trial the negotiator came back with a new proposal that was 20% of the consulting billing rate and extended the trial period to the end of the year (4 months total).   The consulting group ended the project after the consulting group concluded that the newspaper was not operating in good faith.
 
As was listed in the consulting group's agreement a bill for services rendered during the trial period was sent by mail to the newspaper and the response from the law department of the parent company was the newspaper "never contemplated paying any fees for the trial period" and the parent company claimed there was no agreement.
 
The consulting group has since filed for copyright of the published material.
 
Given that we have a tremendous paper trial and several thousand dollars of start-up money, can we file 2 actions on this?  One for fraud and breech of contract and another for copyright infringement?
 
Is it possible that we could conclude that the period of work (which included the development of a website) before publication would be covered by breech of contract and the period when our material was published (without an agreement according to them) would be a copyright action?
 
The newspaper is large and the parent company is huge.  The consulting group was hoping that we could represent ourselves in civil court on the breech of contract and get some funds for the copyright action.  
 
Also during the period of the project we received lots of praise from the newspaper as well as members of the special group.
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JSonnabend
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Re: contract dispute or copyright infringement
« Reply #1 on: Jan 9th, 2006, 9:25am »
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It sounds to me like you may have both copyright and breach of contract causes of action, although the facts would have to be developed further.  As for representing yourself, most states do not allow business entities (as opposed to real people) to represent themselves in court.  Finally, I'm not sure what you mean by "civil court" (in New York City that has a specific meaning), but you'll need to be in Federal Court if you plan on pursuing the copyright cause of action.
 
- Jeff
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SonnabendLaw
Intellectual Property and Technology Law
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JSonnabend@SonnabendLaw.com
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