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Gaines v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 21, 2013

ALDOLPHUS R. GAINES, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

MEMORANDUM OPINION ON MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This action is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #4) (hereinafter “Def.’s Mot.”) by Defendant, the District of Columbia (hereinafter “the District”), [1] and a Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff, Aldophus R. Gaines (Dkt. #8) (hereinafter “Pltf.’s Mot.”).[2]Gaines claims that the District of Columbia infringed on his registered copyright through the creation of a derivative work. See Compl. (Dkt. #1) at 1-2. The District, however, asserts that Gaines’ claim is not protected under the Copyright Act. Having reviewed the filings, the Court finds that Gaines fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, and dismisses this action. The Court’s reasoning follows:

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Gaines holds a registered copyright, which he received on January 20, 1999. See Compl. Ex. B (Certificate of Copyright and copy of GIRLP) at 1. The copyright is for an illustrated instructional manual entitled Get It Right Lotto Paper (hereinafter “GIRLP”). Id. As described in GIRLP, “Get It Right Lotto Paper” consists of betting slips for 3-digit and 4-digit lottery drawings designed for the handwritten input of selected numbers. Id. at 7. The manual touts a number of benefits over standard betting slips, including the “revenue and marketing” potential of printing advertisements on the betting slips. Id. at 8-9.

From 1998 to 2012, Gaines met, corresponded, or spoke with employees of the District of Columbia Lottery Board (hereinafter “DCLB”) on a number of occasions. On April 11, 2012, he e-mailed Wanda Gross, whom he identified as being with the D.C. Lottery. Compl. Ex. D at 9. He stated that his proposal had been “presented to the D.C. Lottery advertising agency without feedback or acknowledgement, ” and requested contact information to “pursue dialogue” regarding his proposal. Id. He further noted that “during the recent Mega-Million [sic] large pay-off, the D.C. Lottery did affix advertising to its betslips.” Id. at 9. Indeed, as noted by Gaines, on March 29, 2013, the D.C. Lottery announced that it would print “commemorative Mega Millions tickets” to mark a “historic $640 million jackpot.” See Compl. Ex. C (Washington Post article on commemorative tickets) at 1.

Gaines filed his Complaint in this action on September 7, 2012. See Compl. Gaines claims that the District’s printing of commemorative Mega Millions® tickets constituted an unauthorized derivative work and infringed his copyright in GIRLP, in violation of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq. Id . at 1-2. Gaines requests a judgment in the amount of $487, 324 to compensate him for the alleged unauthorized copyright use and his loss of advertising revenue. Id. at 4.[3]

This case was reassigned to the undersigned judge on May 30, 2013.

II. THE DISTRICT’S MOTION TO DISMISS

A. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint if a plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the allegations within the complaint. In re Interbank Fund Corp. Sec. Litig., 668 F.Supp.2d 44, 47-48 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). The court “must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Bailey v. Verizon Commc’ns, Inc., 544 F.Supp.2d 33, 36 (D.D.C. 2008).

In resolving a motion to dismiss, a court may take into consideration any documents either attached to or incorporated into the complaint itself. Brown v. District of Columbia, 919 F.Supp.2d 105, __(D.D.C. 2013) (citing EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997)).

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide “plausible grounds” that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff’s allegations. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but a plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions” to provide the grounds of his entitlement. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

On a motion to dismiss, courts are not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Furthermore, while a complaint by a pro se litigant such as Gaines must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings by lawyers, ” the pro se complainant must still ‚Äúplead factual matter that permits the court to infer more than the mere possibility ...


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