Random House, Inc. v. Rosetta Books LLC

150 F. Supp. 2d 613 (S.D.N.Y. 2001)



Rule: In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must demonstrate (1) irreparable harm and (2) either (a) a likelihood of success on the merits or (b) sufficiently serious questions about the merits to make them a fair ground for litigation and a balance of hardships tipping decidedly toward the party requesting relief.


In a copyright infringement action, the publisher filed a motion for preliminary injunction against an internet company and its chief executive officer from selling in digital format eight specific works on the grounds that the authors of the works had previously granted the publisher the right "to print, publish and sell the works in book form."


May an injunction be granted where evidence conflicted with plaintiff's interpretation of a contract?




Relying on the language of the contracts and basic principles of contract interpretation, the court found that the right to "print, publish and sell the works in book form" did not include the right to publish the works in a digital format. The court found that the phrase itself distinguished between the pure content -- i.e. "the work" -- and the format of display -- "in book form." Also, separate grant language was used to convey the rights to publish book club editions, reprint editions, abridged forms, and editions in Braille. This language would not have been necessary if the phrase "in book form" encompassed all types of books. Additionally, each of the authors specifically reserved certain rights for themselves by striking out phrases, sentences, and paragraphs of the publisher's form contract. This evidenced an intent not to grant the publisher the broadest rights in their works. Since the publishing company could not establish a prima facie case of copyright infringement, it was not likely to succeed on the merits and could not meet the test for obtaining a preliminary injunction.

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