Quimbee logo
DMCA.com Protection Status
From our private database of 18,400+ case briefs...

Estate of Stanley Kauffmann v. Rochester Institute of Technology

United States District Court, Western District of New York
2018 WL 3731445 (2018)


Stanley Kauffmann (plaintiff) wrote numerous film reviews for a publication called The New Republic. Initially, the parties had a purely oral agreement about their business relationship. Several years into the relationship, Kauffmann’s editor at The New Republic sent Kauffmann a letter seeking to memorialize some aspects of their relationship in writing. In particular, the letter asked Kauffmann to confirm that Kauffmann’s prior reviews had been “‘works made for hire,’ as that term is defined under the US Copyright laws.” The letter also asked Kauffman to confirm that the same would continue to be true for all future reviews. Kauffman checked a box that he agreed with the letter’s representation of the parties’ agreement and signed the document. Later, the Rochester Institute of Technology (defendant) republished many of Kauffman’s reviews in a book. Kauffmann’s estate sued, claiming that the book infringed on Kauffman’s copyrights in many of the reviews. Although the letter contract stated that the reviews were works made for hire (which would give any copyrights in them to The New Republic, not Kauffmann), Kauffmann’s estate argued that Kauffmann had not actually agreed to relinquish his copyrights. In support of this claim, Kauffmann’s estate wanted to introduce other, extrinsic evidence showing that Kauffmann had not realized that the letter was claiming that Kauffmann had previously agreed and was still agreeing to give up his copyrights in the reviews. For example, a friend of Kauffman’s would testify that Kauffman had said that he still owned the copyrights, there was evidence that Kauffman had licensed some of the copyrights as if he owned them, and there was evidence that Kauffmann would have signed anything presented to him by his editor even if he did not understand its implications.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Siragusa, J.)

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 496,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 496,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 18,400 briefs, keyed to 985 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Questions & Answers

Have a question about this case?

Sign up for a free 7-day trial and ask it

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial