United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Allen Beaulieu, individually and d/b/a Allen Beaulieu Photography, Plaintiff,
Clint Stockwell, an individual; Studio 1124, LLC, a Minnesota limited liability company; Thomas Martin Crouse, an individual; Charles Willard “Chuck” Sanvik, an individual, and Does 3 through 7, Defendants.
Russell M. Spence, Jr., Esq., Parker Daniels Kibort LLC,
counsel for Plaintiff.
Michael L. Puklich, Esq., Neaton & Puklich, P.L.L.P.,
counsel for Defendants Clint Stockwell and Studio 1124, LLC.
F. Fox, Esq., Lauren Shoeberl, Esq., and Lewis A. Remele,
Jr., Esq., Bassford Remele, counsel for Defendant Charles
Wood, Esq., Outfront MN, counsel for Defendant Thomas Martin
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Charles Willard
“Chuck” Sanvik's (“Sanvik”)
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 164.) Plaintiff Allen
Beaulieu individually and d/b/a Allen Beaulieu Photography
(“Beaulieu”), alleges that Sanvik is in
possession of stolen photographs and that he has conspired to
use the stolen photographs to Beaulieu's detriment.
Sanvik was not a party to the original lawsuit. (Doc. No. 1
(“Compl.”).) He was added as a defendant
approximately one year later pursuant to Beaulieu's
Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 47 (“Am. Compl.”).)
Beaulieu brings three claims against Sanvik: (1) conversion
(Count IV); (2) tortious interference with prospective
advantage (Count VII); and (3) injunctive relief (Count
III). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
grants Sanvik's motion and dismisses all counts against
photographed the artist Prince for several years. (Doc. No.
47 (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 18.) He obtained a
Certificate of Copyright Registration in a collection of
photos entitled, “Before Purple Rain, Prince
1979-1983” (“Photos”) on November 8, 1984.
(Id. ¶ 21, Ex. A (“Copyright”).)
The Photos included a combination of 2 ¼” and
35mm photographs, contact sheets, and negatives. (Doc. No.
199 (“ Opp.”) at 7.) In or about 2015, Beaulieu
sought to publish the Photos in a book. (Am. Compl.
¶ 27; Doc. No. 171 (“Fox Decl. Ex. B.”) at
70-78.) He collaborated with Defendants Clint Stockwell
(“Stockwell”) and Thomas Martin Crouse
(“Crouse”) to create the book. (Am. Compl.
¶¶ 28-29.) In or about May 2015, Beaulieu provided
Stockwell with a hard drive and CD containing digital copies
of his Photos. (Beaulieu Dep. at 162, 206; Fox Decl. Ex. B at
70-78.) In April 2016, Beaulieu, Stockwell, and Crouse
completed a production ready, eighth draft of the book using
the digital copies of Beaulieu's Photos. (Fox Decl. Ex.
A., Beaulieu Dep. at 29, 91-92.) No. original Photos were
used to create the book. (Id. at 17-18, 25-26.)
Beaulieu sent a copy of the draft to his literary agent, who
shared it with a potential publisher. (Id. at 29.)
Prince died unexpectedly on April 21, 2016, there was an
increased demand for pictures of him. (Am. Compl. ¶ 35.)
Shortly after, a low resolution MP4 slideshow
(“Slideshow”) and press release with
approximately 141 digital copies of Beaulieu's Photos was
created to promote Beaulieu's work. (Opp. at 15-16; Doc.
No. 172 (“Stockwell Dep.”) at 253-254; Doc. No.
207 (“Fox Supp. Decl.”) ¶ 6(B), Ex. Q.
(“Slideshow E-mail”).) The Slideshow E-mail was
circulated to at least 12 people, including Defendant Charles
Sanvik (“Sanvik”). (Opp. at 1, 15.) The press
release included with each Slideshow indicated that Beaulieu
holds the full copyright to all of the
photographs. Beaulieu alleges that the Slideshow was
created and circulated without his knowledge or consent and
that it was used to promote more than just the book. (Opp. at
6, 2016, though, Crouse sent an e-mail to Beaulieu with the
Slideshow and press release attached. (Slideshow E-mail.) A
separate e-mail from Crouse to Beaulieu shows that Beaulieu
was aware of the plan to market his work as early as July 30,
2015. (Fox. Supp. Decl. ¶ 6(A), Exs. O-P.) The marketing
plan includes reference to a website to serve as a
“virtual gallery, ” social media accounts, video
clips of the book and photos for sharing on social media, and
a list of media outlets to contact. (Id., Ex. O.)
During a deposition, Beaulieu acknowledged receipt of these
e-mails. (Id. ¶ 7, Ex. S. at 375-379.) The
record also reflects that Beaulieu received an e-mail from a
social media company regarding a page featuring his work in
July 2016, that he forwarded the e-mail to Crouse, and that
Crouse responded by encouraging him to post promotional
material on the page. (Doc. No. 204 (“Facebook”)
2016, Stockwell and Crouse agreed to digitally scan all of
Beaulieu's original, physical photographs to assist with
the increased demand for his work. (Am. Compl. ¶ 42; Opp.
at 18-19.) Beaulieu did not create a list, inventory, or
archive of his Photos before giving them to Stockwell and
Crouse. (Beaulieu Dep. at 42-43, 57.) Beaulieu alleges in
both his original and amended complaints that he gave
Stockwell and Crouse approximately 3, 000 Photos to scan and
return within 2 weeks. (Doc. No. 1 (“Compl.”)
¶ 40; Am. Compl. ¶ 42.) At the motion to dismiss
hearing, the number rose to 4, 015. (Doc. No. 140
(“Rule 12 Hearing”) at 31.) Beaulieu subsequently
testified that he provided Stockwell and Crouse with
approximately 6, 000 Photos. (Beaulieu Dep. at 45.) An initial
inventory created after this lawsuit started indicates that
Beaulieu gave Stockwell and Crouse 5, 332 of his 2
¼” Photos. (See Fox Decl. Ex. B at 3
(“Inventory 1”). A subsequent inventory indicates
that he gave them 5, 384 of his 2 ¼” Photos.
(Doc. No. 193 (“Beaulieu Decl.”) ¶ 59, Ex.
19 (“Inventory 2).) There is no inventory of the 35mm
Photos. (Beaulieu Dep. at 153-154.)
Stockwell and Crouse failed to return the Photos despite
multiple requests, collaboration on the book fell apart. (Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 51-53.) Beaulieu argues that while in
possession of his Photos, Stockwell conspired with
Co-Defendants to use them in ways he did not know about or
authorize. (Id. at 54-56.) When his Photos remained
unreturned after several months, Beaulieu ultimately filed
suit on October 24, 2016. (Compl.) Despite the lawsuit,
Sanvik attempted to engage Beaulieu by phone, text, and
e-mail to express his continued interest in the book project.
(Memo. at 9.) He also communicated with Stockwell and Crouse
regarding the lawsuit. (Opp. at 25; see also Beeman
Decl. ¶ 39, Ex. 39 (“Sanvik E-mail”).)
Sanvik maintains that he abandoned the project when his
attempts to revive it failed. (Memo at 9.) He also maintains
that but for the unsolicited Slideshow E-mail, he never saw
nor possessed any of Beaulieu's Photos, and that he has
done nothing to interfere with Beaulieu's interest in the
Photos. (Id. at 8.)
same day Beaulieu filed his lawsuit, his attorney personally
retrieved the Photos from Stockwell's home. (Doc. No. 157
(“Receipt”).) His attorney generated a receipt
listing the items he took (e.g., 5 plastic boxes, 2 black
cardboard boxes, 85 plastic sleeves), but did not quantify
the actual number or type of Photos he removed.
(Id.) Beaulieu's attorney delivered the Photos
to Beaulieu's home the night he retrieved them. (Beaulieu
Dep. at 55-59.) The Photos remained at Beaulieu's home
for three months until his attorney collected them to store
at his law office. (Id. at 65, 67-69.)
initially alleged that Stockwell failed to return 5, 170
Photos. (Inventory 1 at 3.) That number increased to 5, 222
missing Photos in Inventory 2. (Inventory 2; Opp. at 1.) The
record does not reflect why the number changed. The number 5,
222 is based on Beaulieu's memory and a specific
methodology he used to photograph Prince:
I had a very specific methodology for shooting those formal
shots [of Prince], and followed that methodology regularly
whenever I shot Prince for specific projects. I would always
bring what was called a ‘brick' of 2
¼” rolls of film which would be cellophane
packaged together as 20 rolls. Each roll of 2 ¼”
film contained 12 shots, so I always knew I would end up with
photographs in amounts that would be multiples of 12. 40
rolls, or two bricks, would be used for a very important
shoot, like the album artwork sessions. That meant 480 shots
would be taken, and 480 photographs would result. 20 rolls
would be for moderately important shoots, such as posters.
Those would use a single brick of 20 rolls, of 12 shots each,
or 240 photographs. The smallest amount of 2 ¼”
rolls I would bring to a shoot is 6, which equated to 72
photographs. Prince would never let me shoot less
than the entire supply of film that I brought to those
shoots, so those totals were uniform calculations, each time
I would do a formal studio shooting session with Prince. When
I photographed less formal, or live shots, those were almost
always done with my 35-millimeter camera, which created
negatives of slides of 35mm in size. I did not have a
standard shooting practice for these live or informal shoots,
so the formula above does not apply to my 35mm photographs.
(Beaulieu Decl. ¶ 5-6 (emphasis in original);
see also Beaulieu Dep. At 56, ...