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Preliminary injunctions

On December 8, the court decided not to grant Ms. Chase-Riboud's request for a preliminary injunction against Dreamworks. If the court hadgranted an injunction, DreamWorks would have been prevented from releasing Amistad on December 10, as it had originally planned.

It is important to note that the court can grant this preliminary injunction before it hears the main case. If the main case is eventually decided in Ms. Chase-Riboud's favor, the court may at that time issue a permanent injunction.

What is a preliminary injunction?

The Copyright Act does not merely authorize a court to grant an injunction after it has found copyright infringement, it grants the power to issue a preliminary injunction. The aim of such injunctions generally is to prevent the acts of the defendant from altering the situation to the point that a later, final determination for the plaintiff will have little value.

Preliminary injunctions have figured prominently in copyright disputes and are generally believed to be more readily available in this field than with many other kinds of disputes. The critical issue, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (the circuit in which the Amistad case will be heard) is whether the plaintiff can establish it will be likely to prevail in the ultimate dispute over infringement. If so, a preliminary injunction will generally be issued on that assumption that after-the-fact relief will be inadequate. See Apple Computer, Inc. v. Formula International, Inc., 725 F.2d 521 (9th Cir. 1984).