The Copyright Act gives owners of a copyright the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, and prepare derivative works of the copyrighted materials, among other things. It is not uncommon for parties to enter into contracts to protect the exact same rights that are protected by the Copyright Act – prohibiting one or more parties from reproducing, distributing, performing, or displaying copyrighted subject material.
Even though the five elements needed to file an interference with a contract claim clearly differ from the elements needed to file a copyright infringement claim, the majority of courts that have addressed whether claims for intentional interference with a contract are preempted by the Copyright Act have concluded that such claims are preempted to the extent that the interference claim stems from actions equivalent in substance to a copyright infringement claim. To this end, numerous courts, including a recent Ninth Circuit decision, draw a distinction between seeking to enforce a contract that restricts the use of a work, which is arguably not preempted, as opposed to the reproduction of the work, which is preempted.
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