United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
RICHARD N. BELL, Plaintiff,
MERCHANTS BANK OF INDIANA, SONAR STUDIOS INCORPORATED, Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION TO STAY
L. PRYOR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Merchants Bank of
Indiana's Motion to Stay Litigation Pending the Judgment
in Bell v. Maloney (Dkt. 31). The motion has been
referred to the undersigned for ruling.
has brought this suit against Defendants for allegedly
infringing his copyright to a nighttime picture of the
Indianapolis skyline (“Indianapolis Nighttime
Photo”). In 2017, Plaintiff discovered that Merchants
Bank, with the help of Sonar Studios, Inc., uploaded and were
using the Indianapolis Nighttime Photo on their website.
Bell v. Maloney 1:16-cv-01193-RLY-DLP, Plaintiff has
brought a similar copyright infringement lawsuit against
another entity for allegedly uploading a daytime photo of the
Indianapolis skyline (“Indianapolis Daytime
Photo”) taken by Bell. That case is currently before
this Court, and is set to go to trial on July 24, 2018.
(Bell v. Maloney 1:16-cv-01193-RLY-DLP Dkt. 79).
Maloney and the present case the work-made-for-hire
defense has been raised as an affirmative defense.
to grant a motion to stay litigation while another suit
proceeds is a discretionary judgment call made by the Court.
See IDS Life Ins. Co. v. SunAmerica, Inc., 103 F.3d
524, 530 (7th Cir. 1996). The parties and issues in
concurrent litigation do not have to be identical for the
Court to grant a motion to stay. Landis v. North American
Co. 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). The Court uses the
following three-factor test to determine if a stay of
litigation is warranted: “ the prejudice or tactical
disadvantage to the non-moving party;  whether or not the
issues will be simplified by the decision in the other case;
and  whether or not a stay will reduce the burden of
litigation on a party. Johnson v. Navient Solutions,
Inc., 150 F.Supp.3d 1005, 1007 (S.D. Ind. 2015).
Prejudice to the Non-Moving Party
often the most important issue when determining if a party
will be unduly prejudiced by a stay. First, the length of the
stay should be reasonable. For example, a stay of litigation
until all appeals had been exhausted was held to be an abuse
of discretion and prejudicial to the non-movant. See
Landis, 299 U.S. at 256. Second, time-sensitive issues
that may affect the ability of the parties to litigate their
case, such as the availability of witnesses or evidence,
should also be considered by the Court.
Defendant is asking to stay litigation until judgment is
entered in the Maloney bench trial scheduled to
begin on July 24, 2018. With this being a few weeks, this is
a reasonable length of time, and will not unduly prejudice
the Plaintiff. This short stay will not affect the abilities
of the parties to litigate their case. Further, the Plaintiff
here is also the plaintiff in Maloney, thus, he does
not have to stand idly by while someone else determines the
issues that may affect his case here and is in a position to
preserve any information that may be lost due to the passage
of time. Moreover, the Plaintiff fails to present any
argument or allegation about how he will be specifically
prejudiced by a stay in this case. Therefore, factor one
weighs in the favor of Defendant and granting the motion to
Simplification of the Issues
argues that judgment in Maloney will simplify the
issues in this case because, not only will the copyright
ownership of the Indianapolis Daytime Photo be determined,
but the work-made-for-hire defense will be simplified. The
issue here, and in Maloney is whether the photos
were taken within the scope of the Plaintiff Bell's
employment, giving his employer ownership of the pictures at
work-made-for-hire defense comes from the 1976 Copyright Act
that states if the work is made for hire, “the employer
or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered
the author” and owns the copyright. Cmty. for