Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 98 L 4908 The Honorable Lee J. Preston, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Cousins
The plaintiff brought this action under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1996)). The plaintiff alleged that the defendant newspaper had stolen its idea for a television show to be produced in conjunction with a series of newspaper articles. The trial court granted the defendant's motion to dismiss under section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 1996)), on the basis that the plaintiff's action was preempted by the federal Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §101 et seq. (1976)). The trial court did not reach the defendant's additional argument that the exhibits demonstrated that the series of newspaper articles it published was not similar enough to the television show to support any charge that it had copied the plaintiff's work.
The plaintiff now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that its cause of action was preempted.
The plaintiff, Chicago Style Productions, Inc. (Chicago Style), prepared a television show about local people and events called "Chicago Style." The television program was to emphasize "lighthearted personality-driven features." The distinctive characteristic of the show was that it was designed to promote a newspaper and to be tied in with articles from the newspaper. Chicago Style attempted to market its show to the defendant, the Chicago Sun Times, Inc. (the Sun Times).
Jim Elliott, the president of Chicago Style, presented the idea to the defendant in a meeting with George Berger, the Sun Times' director of special events, in April 1997. About a month later, Elliott and Steve Grein, the vice president of Chicago Style, met with Eve Minogue, the marketing director for the Sun Times. Minogue expressed interest in the idea of the television show, and Elliott and Grein agreed to put together a formal proposal and a pilot production video.
Elliott and Grein presented the proposal and showed the pilot video in another meeting with Berger and Minogue in February 1998. The presentation outlined the cost of the program to the defendant, as well as projected revenues. Nine days later, the defendant notified the plaintiff that it had decided not to participate in the proposed venture. The plaintiff then decided to market its proposal to other newspapers.
Four days later, a series of articles entitled "Chicago Style" commenced in the Sunday Chicago Sun Times. The plaintiff alleges that the articles reflected the "essence, strategy and focus" of its proposed program. According to the plaintiff, the Sun Times stole the "Chicago Style" idea and presented it as its own. The plaintiff claims that this has destroyed its ability to market the program to other newspapers.
The plaintiff filed a one-count complaint alleging violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1996)) (Consumer Fraud Act). The defendant filed a section 2-619 motion to dismiss on the grounds that: (1) the plaintiff's Consumer Fraud Act claim was preempted by the federal Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §101 et seq. (1976)); and (2) even if the claim were not preempted, the exhibits clearly showed that the defendant had not copied the plaintiff's idea. The trial court granted the motion on the preemption grounds. The defendant now appeals.
In 1976 Congress amended federal copyright law by adding a preemption provision.
"On and after January 1, 1978, all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright as specified by section 106 in works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression and come within the subject matter of copyright as specified by sections 102 and 103, whether created before or after that date and whether published or unpublished, are governed exclusively by this title. Thereafter, no person is entitled to any such right or equivalent right in any such work under the common law or statutes of any state." 17 U.S.C. §301(a) (1976).
In Baltimore Orioles, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass'n, 805 F.2d 663 (7th Cir. 1986), the seventh circuit outlined a two-prong test for determining whether a state law claim was preempted under section 301 of the Copyright Act. "First, the work in which the right is asserted must be fixed in tangible form and come within the subject matter of copyright as specified in §102. Second, the right must be equivalent to any of the rights specified in §106." Baltimore Orioles, 805 F.2d at 674. In order for a claim under a state statute not to be considered "equivalent" to a copyright claim under this test, the state claim must require an additional element that is qualitatively different from those necessary for copyright infringement. Xerox Corp. v. Apple Computer, Inc., 734 F. Supp. 1542, 1550 (N.D. Cal. 1990); Marobie-FL, Inc. v. National Ass'n of Fire Equipment Distributors, 983 F. Supp. 1167, 1180 (N.D. Ill. 1997). The plaintiff cites cases that seem to enunciate a narrower test for preemption. Kewanee Oil Co. v. ...