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Engel v. Wild Oats, Inc.

United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
644 F.Supp. 1089 (1986)


Facts

Wild Oats, Inc. (Wild Oats) (defendant) was a screen-printing company that primarily made t-shirts. The art director at Wild Oats found a photograph of Central Park in a copyrighted book of photographs by photographer Ruth Orkin Engel. Wild Oats manufactured 2,500 shirts with a silkscreen of the Central Park photograph on them. Wild Oats earned nearly $2 million in profits from the sale of these shirts. Ruth’s daughter, Mary Engel (plaintiff), sued Wild Oats for copyright infringement on behalf of Ruth’s estate. Wild Oats conceded that it had committed copyright infringement. However, Wild Oats argued that: (1) damages should be actual damages and (2) the amount should be determined using the profits that Wild Oats had made from selling the infringing shirts. Mary argued that because of the difficulty of determining actual damages, including reputational damage to her mother, statutory damages were appropriate.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Carter, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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