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Judge won’t revive Dylan Thomas copyright fight

May 13th, 2016 |  Published in Copyright

Dylan Thomas

 

12 May 2016 – A New York federal judge today refused to budge from his March ruling that a British company could not use U.S. courts to sue the Welsh government and several American newspapers over tourism ads featuring photos of famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a motion to reconsider his decision to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that the owner of the images failed to follow the requirements of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which sets strict rules for how a company must serve a foreign government if it wants to sue in U.S. court:

“Having reviewed the record and the parties’ memoranda of law, the court concludes that it overlooked neither a controlling issue of law nor a crucial fact in the record”.

The case was filed in early 2015 by a company called Pablo Star Ltd., which claimed it owned the rights to two images of Thomas that appeared without authorization on the “Visit Wales” tourism site and in a range of advertising materials aimed at U.S. travelers.

In addition to the Welsh government, the suit also targeted the American publications that ran the ads, including Miami Herald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Richmond Times Dispatch, Treasure Coast Newspapers, E.W. Scripps Co. and Journal Media Group Inc.

But in March, Oetken sided with the Welsh government’s argument that it couldn’t be hauled into U.S. court without very specific steps — ones that had not been taken by Pablo Star:

“Because service in ‘strict adherence to the terms of [FSIA] is required’ and plaintiffs did not effect service in accordance with the statute, plaintiffs’ claims against the Welsh government are dismissed for improper service”.

He tossed the claims against the newspapers, too, saying the only connection to the state of New York was that the images were available online in the state — not enough for jurisdiction.

Thomas was Born in Swansea in southwest Wales and a resident of the Welsh towns Laugharne and New Quay, world-famous for his “Do not go gentle into that good night” and other works, and is considered one of the tiny country’s most famous historical figures.

The dispute over whether Pablo Star could sue in New York seemed oddly fitting for a suit about Thomas: the poet famously died in New York City in 1953, after, according to legend, consuming 18 drinks of whiskey at Greenwich Village’s White Horse Tavern.

The case is Pablo Star Ltd. v. The Welsh Government et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. You can read it by clicking here.

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