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Pursuant to the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 411(a), no action for infringement of the copyright in any work shall be instituted until registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.
This is an action by David Miller, Sr., a former employee of the defendant, CP Chemicals, Inc. ("CP") arising out of a dispute over the ownership to certain rights in computer programs. In his complaint, Miller alleged that he owns the copyrights to computer programs he developed while he was employed by CP. He further alleged that the CP has continued to use these programs without authorization and that such use constitutes copyright infringement, breach of an employment contract, wrongful conversion, breach of contract accompanied by fraudulent act, and a violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Was Miller’s claim for copyright infringement meritorious?
The court concludes that Miller’s claim for copyright infringement should be dismissed both because Miller has failed to register any copyrights on the computer programs in issue and because, even if the programs had been properly registered, they constitute "work for hire" within the meaning of the Federal Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. §§ 201(b), 411(b). The court also held that the federal statute preempted Miller’s state law claims.