The Second Circuit Affirms the Dismissal of Copyright Claims against Seinfeld over Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

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The Second Circuit has upheld the dismissal of a copyright suit against Jerry Seinfeld that alleged he stole the concept for his hit show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

As reported here, writer-director Christian Charles sued Seinfeld in federal court claiming his contribution to the idea for Seinfeld’s show about comedians driving and talking over coffee qualified him as its author and copyright owner. After Seinfeld moved to dismiss the case, SDNY Judge Nathan found the copyright claims were time-barred because, more than three years before Charles sued, Seinfeld denied him back-end compensation and the show publicly aired on Netflix without crediting him.

In a summary order, a Second Circuit panel agreed with both of the district court’s reasons for dismissing the copyright ownership and infringement claims. Relying heavily upon its precedent in Kwan v. Schlein, 634 F.3d 224 (2d Cir. 2011), the Second Circuit held that when ownership is the dispositive issue in an infringement suit and an ownership claim is time-barred, a copyright infringement claim is also time-barred even if the alleged infringement occurs within the limitations period. After finding the “central issue is clearly a dispute over ownership” of the show, the Second Circuit reasoned that either of Seinfeld’s repudiations was “enough to place Charles on notice that his ownership claim was disputed and therefore this action, filed six years later, was brought too late.”

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