Suit Against Kanye West Dismissed On "De Minimis" Grounds

Steward v. West, No. CV 13-02449 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2014).

In this copyright infringement action against Kanye West et al concerning a sample, the Court granted defendants' Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings.  On the motion, the Court considered the sound recordings and held that, while plaintiff's sound recordings were sufficiently original to be protectable, defendants' copying was de minimis.  "The result of these distortions and the short length of the samples is that the average audience would not recognize plaintiffs’ Song in any of Defendants’ songs without actively searching for it. In the Ninth Circuit, digital sampling is de minimis when 'the average audience would not recognize the appropriation.'"  Accordingly, the copyright infringement (and dependent contributory liability claims) were dismissed.

Karaoke Damages Limited On Per "Work" Basis

Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC v. D.J. Miller Musict Distributors, Inc. et al., Index No. 3:09-cv-01098 (M.D. Tenn. filed Oct. 5, 2011).

Plaintiffs allege that they are the owners/administrators of music copyrights in numerous original music compositions. Plaintiffs further allege that since at least early 2006, all of the named defendants had been participating in the manufacture, reproduction, distribution, advertising, promotion and offering for sale of illegal and unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs’ music compositions in the form of karaoke recordings in various formats for discs and Internet downloads.

The Defendants argue that Plaintiffs seek damages beyond what is permitted under the Copyright Act because they seek damages on a per infringement basis and not a per work basis. The Defendants allege that Plaintiffs are improperly seeking 1,406 statutory awards because the lists annexed to the complaint of allegedly infringing songs contain many duplicate listings of songs; Defendants argue that, once these duplicate listings are removed, there are only 448 “works” for which Plaintiffs could be able to recover statutory awards.

The Court agreed with Defendants. "The plain language of the Copyright Act indicates that a single statutory award is appropriate for all infringements related to a single copyrighted work". Motion granted.