The Court granted Sony Music summary judgment dismissing the claims of plaintiff, who alleged infringement of his rights to the musical composition and sound recording of the "Iron Man Theme" in a Ghostface Killa song. Sony successfully challenged plaintiff's ownership of a copyright interest in the song by establishing that the composition was a "work for hire" and was therefore owned by Marvel Comics, for whom plaintiff created the composition. Notably, the Court found that Sony -- a third-party to that transaction -- had standing to challenge plaintiff's ownership under the work for hire doctrine pursuant to the 1909 Act's "instance and expense" test.
The Court also dismissed Plaintiff's state law claims for common law copyright infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriation, finding that the claims were preempted by the Copyright Act. Plaintiff argued that the recording fell within the exception to pre-emption as a sound recording fixed before February 15, 1972. 17 U.S.C. 301. The Court disagreed, finding that the recording was an "audiovisual work" and not a "sound recording" because it was created purely to accompany the television show Iron Man and did not exist apart from the accompanying televisuals. Under the 1976 Act, the claims were preempted because they involve an audiovisual work.