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Schrock v. Learning Curve International, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
586 F.3d 513 (2009)


HIT Entertainment (HIT) (defendant) owned the copyright of the Thomas & Friends train characters, which HIT licensed to Learning Curve International, Inc. (Learning Curve) (defendant) to make children’s toys. Learning Curve contracted with Daniel Schrock (Schrock) (plaintiff) to take photographs of the toys from 1999 to 2003. Afterward, Learning Curve continued to use Schrock’s photographs. In 2004, Schrock sued Learning Curve and HIT for copyright infringement. Schrock stated that his process for depicting the toys included choosing techniques that would make the toys look slightly better than they would in person. The district court granted summary judgment for HIT and Learning Curve, holding that Schrock’s photographs were derivative works and did not meet the originality threshold necessary to obtain copyright protection. The court further held that Schrock would have required Learning Curve’s permission to copyright the photographs, which Schrock did not have. Schrock appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Sykes, J.)

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