Indiana Copyright Litigation: Former Volunteer Sues Non-Profit for Copyright Infringement


Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana copyright lawyers for Plaintiff Angela Ellsworth of Huntington, Indiana filed a copyright lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Mission 22 a/k/a Elder Heart, Inc. of Nashville, Indiana infringed Ellsworth’s copyrighted artwork, Copyright Registration No. VA1-958-239, by creating at least one unauthorized derivative work.

Plaintiff Ellsworth is a professional artist. Defendant Elder Heart is a non-profit organization that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and promotes awareness of the veteran suicide rate of 22 per day.

From October 2013 to November 3, 2014, Ellsworth volunteered to assist Defendant in its efforts. Ellsworth states that she created original art, entitled “22”, that depicted the silhouettes of 22 soldiers and the shadows of those 22 silhouettes in November 2013. She indicates that she received a copyright for this artwork in April 2015.

Ellsworth claims that she donated 13 prints of a derivative of her copyrighted artwork to Defendant, including one that was specifically designated as a gift to Magnus Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Defendant.

At a time unspecified in this copyright lawsuit, Defendant launched a project, “Mission 22,” to raise awareness of the veteran suicide rate. Ellsworth contends that, as part of this project, Defendant designed a sculpture that knowingly and willfully copied Plaintiff’s copyrighted artwork. Elder Heart also announced its intention to build the sculpture as a national monument.

In March 2015, a copyright attorney for Elder Heart contacted Ellsworth stating that, at the time that Elder Heart created the accused artwork, it was unaware of Ellsworth’s artwork and that “any similarities with [Plaintiff’s] artwork are a coincidence at best.” Ellsworth asserts that Elder Heart’s copyright counsel subsequently admitted that those statements were untrue.

This lawsuit lists a single count, copyright infringement. It asserts that “Defendant has created at least one unauthorized derivative work, violating Plaintiff’s exclusive right to prepare derivative works based upon her copyrighted Artwork.” Plaintiff Ellsworth seeks injunctive relief along with damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case was assigned to Judge Tanya Walton Pratt and Magistrate Judge Tim A. Baker, in the Southern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 1:15-cv-02031-TWP-TAB.


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