Quinn v. City of Detroit

Decision Date29 September 1998
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A 96-40291.,Civ.A 96-40291.
Citation23 F.Supp.2d 741
PartiesJohn P. QUINN, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF DETROIT, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Jerry R. Swift, Eames Wilcox, Detroit, MI, for plaintiff.

Marjory G. Basile, Miller, Canfield, Detroit, MI, for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GADOLA, District Judge.

On August 9, 1996, John P. Quinn ("Quinn") filed the above-entitled action against the City of Detroit ("the City") seeking monetary damages for the City's alleged infringement of his copyright to a computer program entitled Litigation Management System/Claims Management System ("LMS"). On December 12, 1997, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order denying defendant's motion for summary judgment and granting plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment, specifically holding that the City of Detroit does not own the copyright pursuant to the work made for hire provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. A bench trial in the above-entitled was held during the week of September 7, 1998.

This Opinion represents the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to all issues. These findings of fact and conclusions of law result from a careful consideration of all of the evidence and the documentary and demonstrative exhibits in light of the pertinent law and the Court's observation of the witnesses and its evaluation of their demeanor, qualifications and credibility. Every finding of fact that may be construed to incorporate a conclusion of law is hereby adopted as a conclusion of law. Every conclusion of law that may be construed to incorporate a finding of fact is hereby adopted as a finding of fact. The sub-headings used herein are for convenience only. If a finding of fact or conclusion of law is pertinent to any determination other than that indicated by the heading under which it appears, it is deemed adopted as a finding of fact or conclusion of law applicable to such other determination or determinations as may be appropriate.

I. STIPULATED FACTS

The facts recited immediately below reflect those stipulated by the parties prior to trial, and as expressed in the joint pre-trial order:

1. In 1985, Quinn was hired as a staff attorney by the Law Department for the City of Detroit.

2. Quinn became Supervising Assistant Corporation Counsel on or about January 15, 1991.

3. In this capacity, Quinn was responsible for managing the cases assigned to him personally, as well as the cases assigned to the 8 to 10 attorneys he supervised.

4. After being promoted to supervisor, Quinn decided to develop a computerized litigation management system for use in the Law Department.

5. Quinn decided to use an off-the-shelf fourth generation application development tool called "Professional File."

6. Quinn purchased his own copy of "Professional File" and installed this store-bought software on his home computer and educated himself about it.

7. Using the "application manager" contained in "Professional File" Quinn designed a computer application which he dubbed, "Litigation Management System/Claims Management System" (hereinafter "LMS" or "LMS program").

8. LMS is a menu-driven case management system which stores and processes information relating to litigation and claims.

9. The LMS program cannot function and does not run without "Professional File."

10. After creating LMS, sometime in 1992, Quinn installed the LMS program onto the Law Department's computer network, without seeking permission beforehand. Thereafter, Quinn used LMS to track deadlines and perform other functions necessary to manage litigation.

11. After installing it, Quinn continued to refine and develop the LMS program.

12. Eventually, the majority of the employees in the litigation section, as well as personnel in other sections of the Law Department, began using LMS to assist them in the performance of their duties. As a consequence, these employees came to rely on the LMS program.

13. Sometime after installing the program onto the Law Department's network, Quinn incorporated into LMS a screen that notified its users of his ownership of LMS.

14. During 1995, however, the Law Department began asserting a proprietary interest in LMS, notwithstanding Quinn's claim of ownership in the same.

15. Prior to November 20, 1995, the Law Department attempted to make alterations to LMS, without obtaining Quinn's permission.

16. On or about November 20, 1995, Plaintiff wrote a memorandum to Phyllis James, Corporation Counsel for the City, withdrawing his permission for the City's use of LMS and instructing the City to promptly inform all of its employees that they must immediately discontinue use of LMS.

17. However, the City explicitly claimed ownership in LMS and continued to use the LMS program after the November 20, 1995 memorandum, including making backup copies.

18. Moreover, the City forbade Quinn from making further changes to LMS and suspended him for attempting to do so.

19. In 1995, Quinn retained an attorney, William J. Schramm, to register LMS in his own name with the United States Copyright Office.

20. A certificate of registration was issued to Quinn for LMS, effective February 14, 1996.

21. The law department's alleged infringement of Quinn's ownership interest in LMS commenced before, but continued after, the effective date of his Certificate of Registration.

22. On August 9, 1996, plaintiff filed the instant action against the City claiming that the City had infringed his copyright by making unauthorized copies of LMS and continuing to use it after Quinn purportedly withdrew his permission to use the LMS program.

23. On September 9, 1997, plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to his ownership of LMS, which this Court granted in a memorandum opinion and order dated December 11, 1997.

24. Quinn still used LMS at work on his personally owned computer and allows people under his supervision to use the same.

II. FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court makes the following additional findings of fact:

1. Quinn created LMS outside the scope of his employment as an attorney for the City of Detroit.

2. Quinn did independently create "original expressions" of ideas and concepts when he used Professional File as a programing tool and created the source code of the various "executable" files and "data" files contained in LMS.

3. LMS is a data base program.

4. On June 28, 1995, it appeared to Quinn that despite his notification of ownership through incorporating an "about" screen into the LMS program (see Stipulated Fact 13, supra), the City was assuming that it owned LMS. In a memorandum on that same date, Quinn reminded the City in writing of his ownership of LMS. See Plaintiff's Exhibit 5.

5. In a meeting on or about July 1, 1995, with Phyllis James, Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit, and Terri Renshaw, Deputy Corporation Counsel, Quinn discussed the apparent conflict concerning ownership of LMS and urged the City to promptly complete its then ongoing search for another case management system, as LMS was not going to be available to the Law Department indefinitely.

6. In mid-September of 1995, Brenda Miller, Division Chief of the Litigation Division for the City of Detroit, instructed Quinn to add functions to the LMS applications used by the senior legal secretaries. Quinn responded by adding the functions, but also by protecting them with passwords. He informed Miller that he would not permit actual use of the added functions until the City purchased a license. See Defendant's Exhibits C and D.

7. On October 23, 1995, Quinn was directed to provide specified access to LMS for Ann Daniels, Miller's secretary. Quinn refused this request. See Defendant's Exhibits D and E.

8. On October 25, 1995, the directive to provide access for Daniels was again given by Brenda Miller, accompanied by a threat of discharge. See Defendant's Exhibit E (¶ 2).

9. Immediately thereafter Quinn blocked access to LMS department-wide by placing passwords on LMS. See Defendant's Exhibit E (¶ 3).

10. On October 26, 1995, Miller gave Quinn a written directive to provide the LMS passwords to Miller, accompanied by a threat of discharge. See Defendant's Exhibit E (¶ 4).

11. On October 26, 1995, Quinn met with Miller and Renshaw. At that meeting, Miller's directive was rescinded. See Defendant's Exhibit F. An agreement was reached whereby Quinn would restore access to LMS throughout the department and the City would take no action inconsistent with Quinn's claim of ownership.

12. Within two days after the meeting, the City hired Jurist Systems to modify LMS without Quinn's permission or knowledge. Jurist Systems in fact did modify LMS to allow Ann Daniels access.

13. Upon discovering that unauthorized changes had been made in LMS, Quinn removed the changes.

14. Quinn was ordered on November 15, 1995, in a memorandum from James, to restore the changes that had been made by Jurist Systems, to refrain from making any changes in LMS without express approval from his superiors, and to not limit the Law Department's access or operation of the system. Further, James threatened dismissal and legal action, including damages, for violation of her directive. See Defendant's Exhibit H.

15. On November 20, 1995, Quinn withdrew permission for the City to use LMS and demanded that all employees be informed that they must immediately discontinue use of LMS. See Defendant's Exhibit I (letter from Quinn to Phyllis A. James). Furthermore, Quinn demanded that the City delete LMS from the City's computer system. See id. Quinn also offered to discuss a license for the use of LMS. See id.

16. During the 1995 Christmas holiday season, Quinn made changes to LMS which had been requested by James the previous July.

17. The City took the position that the changes violated the directives of November 15, 1995, and Quinn was thereafter suspended for one week without pay.

18. Quinn filed...

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