Remastering Defeats Claims of Pre-72 Sound Recording Infringement

ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corp., No. 15-cv-6257 (C.D. Cal. May 30, 2016) [Doc. 104].

In a putative class-action alleging that CBS was publicly performing pre-1972 sound recordings in violation of California state law, the Court granted defendants summary judgment because defendants had only publicly performed post-1972 remastered versions of Plaintiffs' works which are governed by federal copyright law.  The Court concluded that a sound engineer's remastering of pre-1972 sound recordings -- through subjectively and artistically altering the work's timbre, spatial imagery, sound balance, and loudness range, but otherwise leaving the work unedited -- is entitled to federal copyright protection.  Focusing on whether the works were derivative, the Court considered the parties' evidence of originality (or lack thereof).  Further, the Court focused on the fact that the remastered sound recordings which CBS actually performed were created pursuant to authorization from either Plaintiffs or their predecessors.