Richard Dawkins Foundation Sues Ex-Worker | Courthouse News Service
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Richard Dawkins Foundation Sues Ex-Worker

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science a former web designer filed a baseless copyright complaint against it to stop it from releasing its educational DVDs for free to the public.

Check out Courthouse News' Entertainment Law Digest.

The Dawkins Foundation sued Upper Branch Productions in Federal Court.

Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, is known for his best-selling science books, including "The Selfish Gene" (1976), "The Blind Watchmaker" (1986), "The God Delusion" (2006) and others. He was Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1996 until 2008. He may be best known to the general public, however, as an atheist.

Upper Branch sued Inner Workings Inc. et al. in the same court on Oct. 12, on copyright claims. The Dawkins Foundation seeks declaratory judgment that it has not infringed any Upper Branch copyrights.

According to the foundation's complaint: "The foundation is a nonprofit entity that exists to support scientific education, critical thinking, and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, suppression, intolerance and suffering. As part of its mission to educate the public, the foundation creates videos and DVDs of lectures and discussions among prominent professors and scientists concerning life, the universe, and the role of science in human life. The DVDs are used to help fund the video projects and the foundation makes the videos available to everyone, everywhere, all the time, for free, through the foundation's YouTube channel and the foundation's' website. The DVDs and the videos serve the foundation's goals by furthering the foundation's education mission and by generating donations for the foundation.

"Through its owner Josh Timonen, Upper Brach has asserted meritless allegations of copyright infringement against the foundation in the related case. Upper Branch has also recently used section 512 of the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] to file a series of bad-faith copyright notifications against the foundation's YouTube channel, causing the shutdown of the entire channel and the removal of all of the foundation's videos.

"Contrary to Upper Branch's allegations and notices, the foundation owns, controls, and/or otherwise has full rights to use and to distribute to the public all of the DVD's and videos. In particular, the foundation organized all of the events and speakers depicted in the videos and DVDs and requested, directed, paid for, and controlled the creation of the videos and DVDs. The foundation hired and paid Timonen and Upper Branch more than $280,000 to film and edit the videos, to manage the foundation's website and YouTube channel, to post the videos to the foundation's website and YouTube channel and to create the DVDs to sell to the public for the benefit of the foundation.

"And Timonen himself posted the videos to the foundation's website and YouTube channel over a period of several years. These videos have been available to the public through the foundation's website and YouTube change for years without any suggestion from Timonen or Upper Branch that such conduct infringed Upper Branch's alleged copyrights. Upper Branch's copyright notices are specious and were filed only because Timonen and Upper Branch recently lost a lawsuit that they had filed against the foundation in California in state court and were ordered to pay the foundation $55,000 in attorney fees. See Timonen v. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Case No. EC057388, Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles. Upper Branch filed its YouTube notices without any warning to the foundation and has refused to provide the foundation with copies of its notices.

"Accordingly, the foundation asks for a declaration of non-infringement of the works claimed by Upper Branch in the related case, Case No. CV12-8789 mwf (rzX), for sanctions against Upper Branch for violation of section 512(f) of DMCA, for an order directing Upper Branch immediately to withdraw its copyright notices and to authorize YouTube to reinstate the foundation's YouTube channel, and for other relief".

The foundation adds: "Professor Dawkins paid Timonen $20,000 in November 2006, $20,000 in May 2007, $20,000 in February 2008, $25,000 in January 2009, and $25,000 in early 2010, a total of $110,000, for services benefiting Professor Dawkins and the foundation."

It claims it paid Timonen and Upper branch another $5,000 a month from November 2007 to July 2009, and other regular payments, for a total of $283,000, plus more than $30,000 for travel expenses, and more than $50,000 in camera and editing expenses.

The foundation is represented by Patrick Hagan with Bryan Cave. It also seeks attorney's fees.

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