Court Partially Voids Deal Between Prince's Estate and Universal Music

In re: The Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson, Deceased, No. 10-PR-16 in the Carver County District Court June 2017.

A Minnesota judge voided a portion of Universal Music Group’s $31 million deal with Prince’s estate, ordering the estate to refund Universal Music Group’s advanced payment.

After determining that the exclusive licensing agreement made back in January included rights that were already guaranteed to Warner Bros. through previous agreements, Prince’s estate asked the court to rescind the agreement so they could ensure no overlapping occurred. The court determined that rescinding the agreement was in everyone’s best interest as opposed to long and expensive litigation. 
 

Aimee Mann Copyright Claim Survives Dismissal Based On Terminated License

Aimee Mann v. MediaNet Digital, Inc., et al., No. 2:13-cv-05269 (C.D. Cal. filed 11/27/13) [Doc. 26].

Plaintiff Aimee Mann (“Mann”), a songwriter and recording artist, brought this copyright infringement action against Defendant MediaNet Digital, Inc. (“MediaNet”), f/k/a MusicNet, a distributor of streaming music, online radio, and music downloads to companies like Songza, Stub Hub, Soundtracker, MTV, Yahoo Music, and Time Warner Cable (among others).  MediaNet moved to dismiss the copyright claims and Plaintiff's claim for rescission of a license agreement.  The Court denied the motion to dismiss the copyright claims, but dismissed the rescission claim with leave to replead.

On the copyright claims, MediaNet argued that Mann’s claim for direct infringement should be dismissed because: (i) MediaNet had a valid license at all relevant times and therefore cannot be liable for copyright
infringement, and (ii) the License Agreement was not terminated on December 4, 2006 as a matter of
law.  The Court found that MediaNet did not have a statutory compulsory license (17 U.S.C. 115).  The Court also found that the 2003 License Agreement was no longer in effect.  Relying on New York General Obligations Law § 5-903, Mann asserted that because MediaNet failed to alert her to the existence of the auto-renewal provision, the License Agreement was not automatically renewed after its initial term ended on December 4, 2006.  The Court agreed that the auto-renewal of the License Agreement is unenforceable under § 5-903. As such, Mann’s allegation that MediaNet exploited her pre-December 5, 2003 and post-December 4, 2006 compositions after the initial term of the License Agreement stated a claim for copyright infringement.  The Court further found that Mann had stated claims for secondary copyright liability (contributory, inducing and vicarious liability).

However, Mann's claim for rescission was dismissed with leave to replead.  The Court found rescission is an equitable remedy and that that Mann had failed to explain why the non-payment of royalties could not be adequately remedied by monetary damages. "This failure is fatal to her rescission claim."

Napster Loses Indemnification Suit Against Label Over Mechanical Licenses

Napster LLC v Rounder Records Corp., No. 09-cv-00318 (S.D.N.Y. decided Jan. 25, 2011).

The dispute is over whether Rounder, a record label, is contractually obligated to indemnify Napster for costs incurred due to copyright infringement lawsuits brought by the owners of musical compositions embodied in the sound recordings provided by Rounder. Napster contends that under two contracts, Rounder was required to procure mechanical licenses for use of the infringed musical compositions.

The court dismissed Napster’s claim based on the first contract because the contract was rescinded by the second contract, thereby extinguishing any claim Napster might have had for its breach. The court dismissed Napster’s claim based on the second contract (i) for Napster's failure to comply with its advance consent provision concerning indemnification; and (ii) it was not Rounder’s responsibility to procure mechanical licenses for the infringing compositions under the contract.

Motion to dismiss granted.


My Boyfriend's Back

Sirico v. F.G.G. Prods., Inc., 2010 NY Slip Op 01733 (1st Dep't Mar. 4, 2010).

Singers of the 1960s hit "My Boyfriend's Back" sues producer of the recording concerning royalties. On appeal of denial of motion for renewal, the Appellate Division addresses plaintiff's New York breach of contract, breach of implied contract, unjust enrichment, accounting, rescission, and right of privacy statutory claims. Specifically at issue is whether summary judgment was appropriate based on limited discovery and problematic affidavits. The court also addresses laches, statute of limitations, limitation on equitable claims.


Sirico v F