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As amended March 19, 2002

Argued November 9, 2001

This case involves a dispute between two architects, one of whom, Elena Sturdza, accuses the other, Angelos Demetriou, of stealing her design for the United Arab Emirates’ new embassy. In addition to suing Demetriou and the UAE for copyright infringement, Sturdza charges the UAE with breach of contract, as well as with conspiracy to commit sex discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. s 1985, and Demetriou with several torts: conspiracy to commit fraud, tortious interference with contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Concluding that no reasonable jury could find Demetriou’s design “substantially similar” to Sturdza’s, the district court granted summary judgment for Demetriou and the UAE on the copyright infringement claim. The district court also dismissed Sturdza’s breach of contract claim, concluding that District of Columbia law bars such claims by architects who (like Sturdza) have no D.C. architecture license; her tort claims, finding them preempted by the federal Copyright Act; and her section 1985 claim, concluding that foreign governments are not “persons” within the meaning of the statute. We agree with the district court’s section 1985 ruling, but have a different view of Sturdza’s other claims. Although differences between the two embassy designs could permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Demetriou’s design is not “substantially similar” to Sturdza’s, because we believe there are sufficient similarities for the jury to reach the opposite conclusion, we reverse the grant of summary judgment of the copyright infringement claim. While the district court may well be correct that D.C. law bars Sturdza’s breach of contract claim, we think the law sufficiently uncertain to warrant certifying the issue to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Finally, because Sturdza’s tort claims are qualitatively different from her copyright infringement claim and therefore not preempted, we reverse the dismissal of those claims.

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