01 November 2013

Courthouse News Service: Urban Fiction Writer Loses Suit Over Bootlegs

Courthouse News Service
Urban Fiction Writer Loses Suit Over Bootlegs
     (CN) - Teri Woods, reportedly the first writer to put the urban fiction genre on The New York Times bestseller list, cannot sue over bootleg copies of her novels, a federal judge ruled.
     Teri Woods and her Philadelphia-based, "mom-and-pop" publishing company sued DeSean Williams aka Jimmie Benjamin and several others in October 2011, alleging they conspired to produce and distribute 70,000 bootleg copies of her copyrighted books for sale.
     Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly in Philadelphia dismissed the claims against two of those defendants - Baltimore-based bookstore Urban Knowledge and its principal, Carl Weber - in May 2012.
     Some months later, Woods filed another suit against many of the same defendants.
     She claimed that bootleg copies of her books, including the three-part Dutch and Deadly Reigns series, appeared for sale on Amazon.
     Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Kelly in Philadelphia preserved claims for copyright infringement and false-light invasion of privacy against Gasch Printing this past April.
     In dismissing most claims, Kelly noted that the "threadbare complaint" failed to show the need for a permanent injunction on top of the remedies available for copyright infringement.
     "The complaint lacks the 'what, how, where and when' underlying a proper fraud claim and is devoid of any injection of precision or measure of substantiation of such claims," Kelly wrote. "Plaintiffs assert a blanket list of acts in support of their RICO claims against all six defendants in this case. Even taking these allegations as true, as we must for the purposes of this motion, we find the actions listed to be vague and conclusory. Plaintiffs neglect to outline the specific role played by each defendant in the alleged fraudulent acts. Rather, the complaint groups the defendants all together under generalized allegations and conclusions. Likewise, there are no specific facts asserting how these illegal acts were committed by each defendant. Additionally, there is no mention of where the illegal activities occurred. Finally, plaintiffs have neglected to specify a time-period as to when the events allegedly took place. Overall, we are left to guess at who committed the illegal activities and where, when and how they were committed."
     Relying on that ruling Friday, Kelly dismissed all claims against Urban Knowledge and Weber, holding that many of Woods' claims are precluded by res judicata.
     Woods' current allegations "replicate almost exactly word-for-word the factual allegations set forth by plaintiffs in Woods I," Kelly wrote, referring to the 2011 action. "Furthermore, plaintiffs' current claims would require the same witnesses and evidence as their claims in the prior suit. In light of these similarities and the fact that the Deadly Reigns series was copyrighted at the time of the first suit, we conclude that these claims were available to plaintiff in Woods I and should have been properly raised at that time. Consequently, plaintiffs' failure to include these claims precludes their injection into the current litigation."
     Back in 2010, Woods sued a Bronx nightclub, the Greenhouse, over its alleged discrimination toward black guests trying to attend her novel release party.
     Guests had filed a class action over the club's alleged discrimination in 2009.
     Woods' website says her books have generated over $15 million in gross revenue. She is touted as the first writer to put urban fiction on The New York Times bestseller list. 

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