In the District of Connecticut, an out of state publisher with no alleged direct contacts with Connecticut recently lost its bid to have a case against it dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Gerald Brittle sued Lorraine Warren, Tony Spera, and Graymalkin Media, LLC for copyright infringement and tortious interference with a contract or business expectancy. According to Brittle’s complaint, Warren and her late husband were paranormal investigators. He further alleges that he entered into an agreement with the Warrens covering the publishing rights for a book titled The Demonologist, which Brittle wrote about the Warrens’ investigations.
According to Brittle, the agreement requires that any contract concerning rights in The Demonologist have unanimous consent from Brittle and the Warrens. Brittle filed the current suit when Graymalkin allegedly published a new version of The Demonologist without his consent. Graymalkin moved to dismiss due to lack of personal jurisdiction. Graymalkin argued the Court does not have personal jurisdiction because Graymalkin, which is registered and headquartered in California, has never had an office in Connecticut, conducted business in Connecticut, paid Connecticut taxes, or had any of its books manufactured, packaged, or warehoused in Connecticut.
Taking up Graymalkin’s motion, Judge Shea applied the long-established two-factor test for personal jurisdiction, which requires determining 1) whether Connecticut’s long-arm statute permits jurisdiction and, if so, 2) whether personal jurisdiction comports with the due process. Addressing Connecticut’s long-arm statute, the Court noted that Brittle alleged Graymalkin is selling copies of The Demonologist into Connecticut by selling to a national bookseller chain that operates in Connecticut and sells The Demonologist in some of its Connecticut stores.
The Court also observed that other courts considering personal jurisdiction have deemed copyright infringement to occur at the point of consumer purchase. Accepting Brittle’s allegations as true, the Court concluded that Brittle made a sufficient showing that Graymalkin committed copyright infringement (from which this case arises) within Connecticut, thus satisfying Connecticut’s long-arm statute. As an alternative, the Court concluded the long-arm statute is also satisfied because Graymalkin derives revenue from interstate commerce and expected, or reasonably should have expected, that its conduct would cause an injury to Brittle within Connecticut.
The Court then turned to due process. Here, the Court concluded Brittle’s allegations, again when read in the light most favorable to him, supported that Graymalkin supplied infringing copies of The Demonologist to the national bookseller chain expecting they would be distributed to consumers nationwide, including in Connecticut. The Court found this was sufficient to demonstrate the existence of minimum contacts for specific jurisdiction. Having found the two-factor test for personal jurisdiction satisfied, the Court denied Graymalkin’s motion to dismiss.
The Court’s opinion is worth noting because it provides guidance to out of state defendants on when the absence of direct contact with a forum might not be enough to avoid personal jurisdiction. The case is Evergreen Media Holdings, LLC v. Warren, No. 3:14-cv-01068-MPS (D.Conn), before Judge Michael P. Shea. A copy of the order can be found here.