Judge refuses to vacate dismissal of defendants in book publisher's copyright suit against 'bootleg' bookseller

By Jon Campisi | Jul 6, 2012

A judge has refused to vacate the dismissals of the defendants in a copyright infringement

case in which a small Philadelphia-based publishing company and its owner were suing a bookstore and its proprietor for allegedly selling the plaintiffs’ works without permission.

Teri Woods and Teri Woods Publishing filed suit against Carl Weber, Urban Knowledge Bookstore and others last October claiming the defendants fraudulently bootlegged copies of works produced by the plaintiff and then turned around and sold them for personal gain.

The lawsuit had been filed at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

On March 19 of this year, Weber, a bookseller, filed a motion to dismiss, which a federal judge granted because the plaintiffs failed to respond to the motion within the requisite time period.

The claim against Weber was dismissed on May 1 and the plaintiffs followed up by filing a motion to vacate the dismissal against Weber on May 31.

In his memorandum, filed June 29 at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly determined that the plaintiffs failed to set forth any specific instance in which a clerical error allegedly occurred, which is what the plaintiffs claim happened when the defendants were dismissed in the case.

The judge also wrote that the plaintiffs’ inaction does not amount to excusable neglect. Woods had earlier argued that the court should vacate the dismissal of Weber precisely because of her own excusable neglect.

“Here, Plaintiffs badly assert that there was excusable neglect without proffering any legal or factual support,” the memorandum states. “The absence of this required information renders Plaintiffs’ claim woefully short.”

Kelly furthermore wrote that Weber would suffer additional prejudice in time and money if the litigation was reopened, and that the plaintiffs’ failure to answer Weber’s motion to dismiss has hampered and delayed the judicial proceedings.

The judge also wrote that the plaintiffs have failed to set forth any reason to explain their neglect.
“In the absence of some reason as to the Plaintiffs’ untimeliness it is impossible for us to excuse such conduct,” Kelly wrote. “Additionally, Plaintiffs never requested an extension of time to file an answer.”

Lastly, Kelly wrote that the plaintiffs have failed to present any evidence that they have acted in good faith, which backs up the judge’s determination that the plaintiffs failed to meet their required burden.

The other defendants that had been named in the lawsuit were DeSean Williams, a/k/a Jimmie Benjamin, of Plainfield, N.J.; United Book Press Inc. of Baltimore, MD; Gasch Printing Inc. of Odenton, MD; Horizon Books Inc. f/k/a Culture Plus Distribution and Hakim Hopkins, doing business as Black and Noble Bookstore, both based in Philadelphia; and Harlem Book Stores of New York, NY.

The various other defendants were dismissed as parties to the litigation in separate court orders this past spring, the court docket in the case shows.

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