The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a major copyright win for the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery located in Brookline, MA, in a copyright infringement suit involving the Monastery's copyrighted translations of seven ancient religious Greek texts. The Monastery, which derives income from selling its copyrighted texts, sued its former monk Archbishop Gregory, now a monk in Colorado, in 2007 after he posted approximately 1,000 pages of text taken from seven of the Monastery's copyrighted translations on his own website. The suit was both for infringement of the seven works and for breach of a settlement agreement that resolved a previous copyright infringement lawsuit between the Monastery and the Archbishop.
On August 2, 2012, the First Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts' two grants of summary judgment to the Monastery in February and December 2010, and reiterated what the Copyright Act expressly provides: that translated literary texts are copyrightable works.
The Monastery was represented by Kristen McCallion, co-chair of the Copyright Group at Fish & Richardson, and Mark A. Fischer, a partner at Duane Morris. McCallion presented the oral argument to the First Circuit before a three judge panel including Judge Juan Torruella, who wrote the opinion, Judge Michael Boudin, and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter who was sitting by designation. Fischer, who has represented the Monastery for more than 25 years, worked on the original complaint, the successful effort before the District Court, and was part of the team throughout the litigation.
"This was a huge victory for our client. Not only did the Court reconfirm that the Monastery's translations are copyrightable works, but they also concluded that the art of translation is a creative process that involves many artistic choices," said McCallion. "The Court's fair use analysis was also comprehensive and well-reasoned. The recognition that the Archbishop's copying of the Monastery's translations affected the value of the Monastery's works and the overall market for translations of ancient religious texts is a determination of significant importance to the Monastery."
Further, said Fischer, "The decision validates the copyrightability of religious works and helps protect them from infringement. Works by religious organizations are entitled to full copyright protection. The creativity, skill, and dedication of the monks has been recognized."