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Failure to List Blog on Bankruptcy Schedule Dooms Copyright Lawsuit, Court Holds

Monday, December 2, 2013
Nov. 25 --An author who did not list her blog on a bankruptcy schedule lacks standing to bring a copyright infringement suit because she lost her rights in that asset, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona held Nov. 21, dismissing in part her lawsuit (Levingston v. Earle, 2013 BL 326748, D. Ariz., No. 3:12-cv-08165-JAT, 11/21/13).

Judge James A. Teilborg wrote that Lynnell Levingston runs the “Three Men Make a Tiger” blog and also published a book, “The Road Memoir of Corruption and Abuse of Power.”

The court explained that while Levingston pursued a copyright infringement suit in 2009 against some of the defendants in the present case regarding her book, she separately filed a Chapter 7 petition in federal court. She listed her book as an asset but did not list the blog or the copyright infringement claims related to the book or blog, the court added.

A district court in the 2009 copyright infringement case dismissed the action, finding Levingston did not substitute or join the bankruptcy trustee as a party in the case, the court said. The present case arose when Levingston filed a 2012 complaint alleging, in part, copyright infringement and violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), at 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a).

The court ruled those claims could not be pursued because of Levingston's failure to list the copyright infringement suit and blog in her bankruptcy schedule. It explained that under Bankruptcy Code Section 541, all of a debtor's assets vest in a bankruptcy estate, even causes of action.

“Failure to list an interest on a bankruptcy schedule leaves that interest in the bankruptcy estate, and the debtor lacks standing to pursue it,” the court added, citing Dunmore v. United States, 358 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 2004).

She therefore could not bring the DMCA claim alleging the defendants circumvented her blog's security measures, the court held, because that right is only held by copyright owners.

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