High School Music Teacher Has Qualified Immunity In "Glee" Copyright Case

Tresona Multimedia v. Burbank High School, 16-cv-04781 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 22, 2016).

In a case involving high school choir performances of four songs, the Court finds that the music director was protected by "qualified immunity" from the plaintiff's copyright infringement claims.  Additionally, the Court found that the plaintiff lacked standing to sue for copyright infringement with respect to three songs; and as to the fourth song at issue, summary judgment was denied due to questions of fact concerning the statute of limitations defense.

As to standing, the plaintiff's rights derived from less than 100% owners of the songs and under 9th Circuit law the plaintiff did not have exclusive rights in the songs and therefore lacked standing.  As to the three year statute of limitations, the Court found a question of fact whether the plaintiff should have known of the infringing activity.

Lastly, as to qualified immunity the Court recognized there was no binding 9th Circuit law on the matter (though some other district courts had considered the issue).  Deciding that the doctrine applied, the Court found that as a matter of law the music teacher was protected.

Questions Whether "Iron Man" Comic Theme Song A Work Made For Hire Under 1909 Copyright Act; 2nd Cir.

Urbont v. Sony Music, No. 15-1778 (2d Cir. July 29, 2016).

Plaintiff, who claimed ownership rights in the composition of the "Iron Man" comic theme-song from the 1960s, raised sufficient questions of material fact to rebut defendants' "work made for hire" defense under the 1909 Copyright Act and its "instance and expense" test, holds the Second Circuit in reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants on Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim.  Further, the defendants -- who were not the alleged employer (Marvel Comics was) and therefore a third-party to the alleged relationship -- had standing to assert the work made for hire defense.  However, the appellate court held that the lower court properly dismissed the plaintiff's state-law claims as pre-empted, rejecting the plaintiff's argument that there was a separate pre-1972 sound recording subject to state laws rather than the song as part of an audio-visual work and therefore preempted.

Beastie Boys & UMG Awarded Attorney's Fees In TufAmerica Copyright Action

TufAmerica, Inc. v. Diamond et al., No. 12-cv-3529 (S.D.N.Y. filed Mar. 9, 2016).

The Court awarded the Beastie Boys and their label, UMG, attorney's fees under section 505 of the Copyright Act, after they successfully defeated plaintiff's infringement claims at summary judgment.  The question at summary judgment was whether Plaintiff had standing (they did not), and the Court found that awarding fees furthered the objectives of the Copyright Act by deterring the filing and pursuit of lawsuits in which chain of title has not been properly investigated by the plaintiff.   The court reduced the Beastie Boys' lawyer's fees by 10% for some vague billing entries and duplicative work; 15% was reduced from the label's lawyer's fees based on vague and sparse entries.  Beastie Boys and UMG were also awarded costs.  The totals were:
  • Beastie Boys: approx. $591k fees, approx. $11k costs
  • UMG: appox. $234k fees, approx $8k costs

Band Member May Sue As Third-Party Beneficiary Of Contract Between Record Label and Suspended Loan-Out Company

Bozzio v. EMI Group Ltd. et al., No. 13-15685 (9th Cir. Jan. 26, 2016).

The 9th Circuit held that the front-woman of the '80s new-wave band "Missing Persons" could sue the band's record label for breach of contract (whether proper royalty rates were paid) as a third-party beneficiary of the contract between the record label and the "loan-out" company created by the band, even though the State of California had suspended the corporation's status for failure to pay certain taxes.  "The parties have not cited, and we have not found, any California case holding that a third-party beneficiary cannot sue the promisor for breach of contract when the promisee is a suspended corporation."  Additionally, interpreting a related Artist Declaration, the 9th Circuit held that plaintiff did not necessary waive the benefits of the contract under the provision requiring band-members to look to the loan-out company (not the label) for the payment of royalties.  Language in the Loan-Out Agreement was in tension with language in the artist declaration.  Accordingly, the district court -- which had dismissed with prejudice believing that amendment would be futile -- was reversed.

Sampling Case Against B.I.G. Dismissed

Hutson v. Notorious B.I.G., LLC et al., No. 14-cv-2307-RJS (SDNY Dec. 22, 2015) [Doc. 51].

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court dismissed plaintiff Lee Hutson's copyright infringement claims against the Notorious B.I.G.'s successor, label, publisher, record company and distributor, which alleged unauthorized sampling of Plaintiff's 1973 song (composition and sound recording) "Can't Say Enough About Mom" in the Biggie song "The What" appearing on the 1994 album "Ready To Die."  Plaintiff alleged that he first discovered the unauthorized sample in 2012, and brought suit in 2014.  In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleged infringement of the composition, of the sound recording outside the USA, and the digital performance right of the sound recording.

The Court dismissed each claim.  After noting the standard on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and discussing which documents outside of the pleadings it would consider (e.g., agreements, the sound recording, copyright registrations, certificates of incorporation), the Court then turned to each cause of action.

First, the Court found that Plaintiff lacked standing.  Although Plaintiff alleged that he owned 50% of the copyright in the composition, the Court found that allegation implausible for the time of the infringement (1994-the present) because the agreements submitted did not establish that he had a chain of title, and further, the allegation that plaintiff was "doing business as" a certain entity was insufficient given corporate formalities.  [The Court did note in dicta, fn. 4, that the statute of limitations defense likely failed.]  Similarly the Court found that Plaintiff failed to plead ownership of the sound recording because of a a prior lawsuit in which the settlement included an assignment to the record label as well as a release.

Second, the Court found that it lacked jurisdiction over infringement occurring abroad.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the claims.  The Court even dismissed claims against a non-moving defendant.

Lastly, the Court denied Plaintiff's application for leave to amend, as futile.

Cox Communications Not Protected By DMCA Safe Harbor In Bit-Torrent Case

BMG Rights Management v. Cox Communications, no. 14-1611 (E.D. Va. Dec. 1, 2015).

In an action by the putative owners of 1,400 musical compositions against an internet service provider (Cox) for contributory and vicarious liability based on its users Bit Torrent infringement, the Court held inter alia that the ISP was not protected by the DMCA safe-harbor because it did not terminate access of repeat infringers under appropriate circumstances.  The Court found that defendant did not implement a repeat infringer policy before 2012, and after 2012 it did not reasonably implement its policy.  Thus, if Plaintiff is successful at trial, it will not be limited in the remedies it seeks.

Other issues the Court addressed was whether Plaintiff had standing (the copyright registrations listed Plaintiff, its predecessor, someone else, or the works were purchased).  The Court further found questions of material fact, 1) whether there is evidence of direct infringement by third parties; (2) whether there is evidence of Cox’s contributory infringement; (3) whether there is evidence of Cox’s vicarious liability; and (4) whether BMG failed to mitigate its damages.  Lastly, the Court found that the "unclean hands" defense failed as a matter of law.

Beyonce Dodges Copyright Claim In "XO" v "XOXO" Case

Lane v. Carter et al., No. 14-cv-6798 (SDNY filed 10/21/15) [Doc. 51].

Plaintiff's claim, alleging that he gave a copy of his song XOXO to one of Beyonce's background singers and that Beyonce infringed the song when she created the song XO, was dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and 8(a).  First, the Court found that although Plaintiff holds a copyright registration for the lyrics to XOXO, the registration excluded rights to the music which was the sole basis of the copyright claim.  Moreover, even though Plaintiff alleged that he was an exclusive licensee, he did not allege that hte licensor had a valdily registred copyright.  Accordingly, the claim was dismissed for lack of standing. 

Even though that was potentially curable on an amended pleading, the Court found then considered whether a copyright infringement claim was otherwise substantively viable.  The Court then underwent a "substantial similarity" analysis of: (1) "the beat" and the songs to determine whether the similarities between the two songs concern copyrightable parts of XOXO and whether a reasonable and properly instructed jury could conclude that there is substantial similarity.  The Court found that the use in both songs of "a common four-bar phrase" would not establish substantial similarity between them.  Additionally, comparing the songs holistically, the Court found that no reasonable jury could find the lyrics of XOXO substantially similar to XO.  Aside from thef act that both songs' lyrics use the letters X and O, "there is virtually nothing common to the two song's lyrics" (emphasis in original).  Moreover, the lryics of the two songs have no word in common, save ubiquitous words like "I," "you," your," "is," and "baby."  The themes were also different.  Next, as to the music, the Court listened to the two song and found litte, if anything, in common.  The Court, accordingly, dismissed the complaint with prejudice.

Plaintiffs In Sampling Case Fail To Sufficiently Plead Their Standing



Kelley v. The Universal Music Group, No. 14-cv-2968 (S.D.N.Y. filed 10/19/15).

In a case alleging that a song by the artist "Fabulous" infringed plaintiffs' 1974 song by including an unauthorized sample, the Court dismissed the pro se plaintiffs' copyright claim without prejudice to amend based on their lack of standing. The Court found that a copyright registration listing the plaintiffs as authors but not claimants rebutted their claim; but, that plaintiffs could replead to allege that they have standing as "beneficial owners" (i.e. a right to collect royalties), which was not sufficiently pleaded. The other state-law claims for violation of "poetic license " and "fraudulent deceit" were held to be preempted by the copyright act, and the mental anguish claim was not a remedy authorized by the statute.

Ray Charles' Foundation Can Challenge Notices His Heirs Served To Terminate Copyright Grants To The Foundation

The Ray Charles Foundation v. Robinson, No. 13-55421 (9th Cir. Opinion dated July 31, 2015).

The 9th Circuit holds that that the Ray Charles Foundation, the sole beneficiary of Ray Charles’s estate, had standing to challenge the validity and effectiveness of notices of termination of copyright grants conferred by Charles to the predecessors of Warnter/Chappell Music.  The Court found that the Foundation was a real party in interest because the termination notices affected its right to royalties, and its claims fell within the statutory zone of interests.  Accordingly, it had standing to sue to challenge whether the underlying works were made for hire and thus not subject to the termination provisions of 17 USC 203 and 304(c).

Big Pimpin Suit Continues With Triable Issues Of Fact

Fahmy v. Jay-Z et al., No. 2:07-cv-05715 (C.D. Cal. May 27, 2015).

In the copyright infringement action concerning Jay-Z's song Big Pimpin', the Court denied plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment seeking to dismiss defendant's "license" affirmative defense.  The Court concluded that there were triable issues of fact as to whether plaintiff conveyed any performance rights he owned in the infringed song.  The Court also concluded that there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether defendants received a license to publicly perform the song as part of Big Pimpin' through their asserted chain of title or as a result of BMI blanket licenses.

Ghostface Killa Case, Involving "Iron Man Theme" Sample, Dismissed

Urbont v. Sony Music Entertainment et al., No, 11-cv-94516 (S.D.N.Y. April 20, 2015) [Doc. 78].

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.

"Whomp! (There It Is)" $2 Million Jury Award Affirmed

In re: Isbell Records, Inc. (Isbell v. DM Records), No. 13-40878 (5th Cir. Dec. 18, 2014).

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a finding that plaintiff owned the copyright in the composition of the song "Whomp! (There It Is)", that defendant was liable for infringement based on its exploitation of the song for year, and the jury's award of over $2 million in damages.  The primary issue was whether a 50% interest in the song had originally been assigned to the plaintiff or the defendant's predecessor-in-interest (the other 50% remained with the writers/producers of the song).  The 5th Circuit held that California contract interpretation law applied, and that the lower court correctly found that the contract granted the 50% interest in the song to the plaintiff.

On appeal of defendant's trial motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 for judgment as a matter of law, the defendant raised two issues regarding the district court's interpretation of the recording agreement as assigning a single 50% interest to plaintiff.  First, the Court rejected defendant's argument that the lower court erred in interpreting the agreement without asking the jury to make any findings on extrinsic evidence.  Second, the Court rejected defendant's argument that the agreement also assigned a second 50% interest in the composition copyright because the argument had not previously pursued that theory and had disclaimed the theory at an earlier hearing.  In short, the defendant could not raise its "two assignments theory" after not previously asserting it at trial or in its earlier Rule 50 motion.

On appeal of defendant's motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) for relief from judgment based on fraud and lack of standing, the Court rejected defendant's argument that it was prevented from presenting the defense of plaintiff's lack of standing.  Even if the plaintiff had improperly withheld a certain document, it would not have affected plaintiff's standing and thus would not have affected defendant's defense.

With respect to the jury's damage award of over $2 million, the Court rejected defendant's argument that plaintiff should have only been awarded 1/2 of that amount as 50% owner of the copyright.  First, defendant did not object to the jury charge during trial.  And under the plain-error standard of review, the district court did not err.  Notably, the 5th Circuit found that Edward B. Marks Music Corp. v. Jerry Vogel Music Co., 140 F.2d 268 (2d Cir. 1944), was inapplicable to the issue of first impression whether a partial owner of a copyright can ever be awarded infringement damages for his co-owner's share.  Specifically, the jury could have found that plaintiff was entitled to 100% of the royalties in the first instance as administrator/publisher of the song.  In other words, because plaintiff was obligated to account to the other 50% owners (the producers/writers), plaintiff could recover 100% damages and any issue as to distributions would be a separate case between the co-owners not involving the defendant.

Lastly, in affirming denial of defendant's Fed. R. Civ. P. 59 motion for a new trial, the Court found that plaintiff's closing statement -- referring to defendant as a "thief -- was not abusive and improper.  Defendant did not object to the closing statement at trial and thus the standard of review was plain error.  Evidence was presented at trial form which the jury could find that defendant's conduct was willful and that defendant stole the copyrights from plaintiff.  Further, any prejudice was minimized by the judge's instructions and the statements concerned damages rather than liability.  Further, plaintiff ultimateley elected actual damages which were higher than statutory damages, and willfulness is not an element of actual damages calculation.

11th Cir. Finds Summary Judgment Properly Granted In Favor of BMI And Against Tavern; Adopts 2nd Cir. Davis v. Blige

BMI v. Evie's Tavern Ellenton, Inc., No. 13-15871, 2014 BL 329074 (11th Cir. Nov. 21, 2014).

The 11th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the performing rights society BMI, rejecting the defendant-tavern's argument that there were questions of material fact as to the copyright ownership of the musical compositions at issue and as to whether defendants were innocent infringers.  With respect to the chain-of-title for the five songs at issue, the court examined each chain of title, and further found that the district court properly found that BMI could be awarded judgment on each song in addition to the copyright holder (generally, the music publisher who owned the copyright).  As BMI agreed to be responsible for all costs and expenses pursuing infringement actions based on the titles that BMI licenses from copyright owners, the number of them to whom summary judgment is granted made no difference in the award of damages, attorneys' fees and costs.  Thus, there was no error in granting summary judgment to the other plaintiffs (the copyright owners) under Fed. R. Civ. P. 61.

As to innocent infringement, the Court affirmed that is not a defense to summary judgment liability, and instead is only a consideration as to the amount of statutory damages to award.  The court also found that an award of attorney's fees was appropriate.  Notably, the 11th Circuit joined the rule adopted by the Second Circuit in Davis v. Blige, 505 F.3d 90, 99 (2d Cir. 2007) that a copyright co-owner may maintain and recover in a copyright infringement action without joining other co-owners.  See fn. 2.

Judge Finds Liability In Shakira Infringement Trial

Mayimba Music, Inc. v. Sony Corp. of Am. et al., No. 1:12-cv-01094-AKH (SDNY filed 08/19/14) [Doc. 104].

This is an infringement action alleging that a Shakira song infringes the copyright in a musical composition.  After a bench trial, the Court found: (a) that plaintiff, as exclusive licensee, had standing; (b) there was no proof of laches; (c) the Shakira song was an unlawful copy of plaintiff's song; and (d) the US distributors were liable for infringement.  The next stage was determining damages, or alternatively a permanent infringement.

11th Circuit Clarifies Author's Standing When Publisher Registers Copyright As Author's Assignee

Smith v. Casey, No. 13-12351 (11th Cir. Jan. 22, 2014) (decision here).

At issue in this appeal is whether the author of a musical composition who assigned his rights in exchange for royalties may rely for purposes of standing to sue for infringement under the Copyright Act on a registration his publisher filed.  The 11th Circuit found that the lower court erred in concluding that the estate lacked statutory standing to sue for copyright infringement.

The basic facts are this.  Around the same time a song called "Spank" was recorded, Harrick Music, Inc. (Harrick Music), a publishing company affiliated with the record label Sunshine Sound, registered a copyright for the musical composition “Spank,” identifying Smith as composer and itself as claimant.  Harrick Music checked a box on the registration indicating the song was not a composition made for hire.  In the ensuing years, Smith acquiesced in Harrick Music’s administration of the “Spank” composition copyright, but, he alleged, the company never remitted a cent to him. According to the complaint, neither did Sunshine Sound. Under Smith's Recording Agreement with Sunshine and the form songwriter’s agreement attached to it,
however, Smith was owed percentage royalties for the song’s exploitation in exchange for assigning his rights to it. So on November 28, 2011, shortly before his death, Smith through counsel sent a cease-and-desist letter revoking Harrick Music’s authority to administer “Spank.” And Smith also filed with the Copyright
Office four Notices of Termination, seeking to formally record his revocation. Despite this, the defendants continued to commercially exploit the composition, and thereafter Smith's estate sued for infringement of the composition (not the sound recording).

Two defendants (not Sunshine or Harrick) moved to dismiss, and the district court concluded Smith lacked statutory standing to pursue his copyright claim and sua sponte dismissed that count with prejudice as to all of the defendants.  Harrick Music, not Smith or his estate, had registered the copyright, the district court noted, and registration was a necessary precondition to filing suit for infringement.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit first examined sections 411 and 501 of the Copyright Act: "The 1976 Copyright Act’s legislative history explains that Congress intended 'beneficial owner,' as the term is used in § 501(b), to 'include . . . an author who had parted with legal title to the copyright in exchange for percentage
royalties based on sales or license fees.'"  Continuing,
Under this definition, the estate has a sufficient ownership interest for standing under § 501(b). According to Smith’s allegations, he never signed any agreement giving Harrick Music the right to exploit the “Spank” copyright. But even were we to treat Smith’s agreement to permit Sunshine Sound to execute the form songwriter’s contract appended to his Recording Agreement as acquiescence to its terms for the “Spank” composition, Smith still would only have assigned his rights to the musical composition in exchange for royalties. Thus, he has at least a beneficial interest that satisfies § 501(b) of the Copyright Act.
The twist was that Harrick, not Smith, had filed the registration.  Nonetheless, the 11th Circuit found that "The district court’s construction of § 411(a) was too narrow. Harrick Music registered a claim to copyright in the 'Spank' composition, specifically identifying Smith as the composer and informing the Copyright Office the work was not made for hire. Nothing in § 411(a) indicates that a composer who has agreed to assign his legal interest in a composition, along with the right to register it, in exchange for royalties, may not rely on the registration his assignee files. Where a publisher has registered a claim to copyright in a work not made for hire, we conclude the beneficial owner has statutory standing to sue for infringement."  (Emphasis added).

Although the 11th Circuit reversed on the standing issue, it found that the District Court properly dismissed plaintiff's declaratory judgment claim.


Summary Judgment Denied Where Question Of Fact Concerning Plaintiff's Interest In Song

Mayimba Music v. Sony Corp. of Am. et al., No. 12-cv-1094 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2014) [Doc. 30].

The Court denied defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Plaintiff just "barely" had an issue for the jury, to wit: whether Plaintiff, alleged assignee of the song, still maintained an interest in the copyrighted song, which Plaintiff alleged was used without its permission in a song ultimately recorded by Shakira.  There was conflicting testimony and documentary evidence.

Trademark Claim Over Band Name Dismissed For Lack Of Standing And Failure To State A Claim

Newsboys v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. et al., No. 3:12-cv-0678 (M.D. Tenn. - Nashville filed July 11, 2013) [Doc. 41].

Plaintiffs filed suit under the Lanham Act against defendants -- music distributors and the band New Boyz -- alleging trademark infringement of the mark NEWSBOYS.  The court concluded that the plaintiffs Newsboys Inc. lacked standing to pursue its claims because the other plaintiff, Wesley Campbell, is the sole owner of the Newboys trademark.  Also, the Court concluded that because Campbell's registered trademark is limited to "live musical performances of a religious nature rendered by a group," he had failed to allege plausible facts of the likelihood of confusion of the two groups.

KC/Sunshine Case Dismissed For Lack Of Standing

Smith v Casey, No. 1:12-cv-23795 (S.D. Fla. 3/21/2013) [Doc. 71].



Plaintiff was the administer of an estate of a recording artist, songwriter, producer, and musician who died in 2012. The decedent was the sole author of the musical composition entitled Spank.  Plaintiff alleged that, “[d]espite receipt of Decedent Smith’s Cease and Desist notice Defendants KC, Harrick Music, Sunshine Sound, Horne and Joy Productions have continued to commercially exploit the Composition ‘Spank.’  Count I of Plaintiff’s Complaint was for copyright infringement of the Spank composition only, and only for the period from November 28, 2011, when the Cease & Desist Letter was written, through the present.


Defendants moved to dismiss the copyright claims against them on either of two separate grounds: (1) Plaintiff lacks standing to sue for copyright infringement, given that he never registered his copyright interest; and (2) the Complaint contains insufficient allegations of infringement activity.  The Court agreed that the copyright infringement count should be dismissed for all Defendants because Plaintiff lacked standing to sue, and additionally as to the moving Defendants because of insufficient pleadings.


Standing to sue for infringement must necessarily be grounded in ownership of a copyright
interest. That ownership is determined in part by compliance with the formalities of the
Copyright Act. The Act provides that “[t]he legal or beneficial owner of an exclusive right under
a copyright is entitled, subject to the requirements of section 411, to institute an action for any
infringement of that particular right committed while he or she is the owner of it.” 17 U.S.C.
§ 501(b). Section 411, in turn, states that “no civil action for infringement of the copyright in
any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright
claim has been made in accordance with this title.” Id. § 411(a). Any registration for the
copyright sued upon must be commenced no later than the date that the suit was brought.  If Plaintiff produces a certificate of copyright, the burden shifts to Defendants to demonstrate why the claim of copyright is invalid. 

Here, Plaintiff has failed to produce a certificate of copyright with respect to the Spank
composition, and fails even to allege that it had registered for one by the time this Complaint was filed. Plaintiff does attach a Certificate of Copyright Registration, dated March 1, 1979, for
Spank to the Complaint, but the Certificate names Harrick Music as the Copyright Claimant.
Smith is listed only as the author, and the Registration notes that “Harrick Music, Inc. received transfer by written notice from Ronald Luis Smith.”  Even if the registration were the fruit of inaccurate information submitted by the registrant, Harrick Music, it is still a prerequisite to the filing of a copyright infringement claim – a prerequisite that neither Plaintiff nor Smith has satisfied. As such, the Court finds that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring Count I against any and all of the defendants, including Horne and Joy Productions.  [Internal citations omitted].

Standing Still Lacking Under 1909 Act In "Big Pimpin'" Case

Nafal v. Jay-Z, et al, 11 cv 06238 (C.D. Cal. Mar 2, 2012).

Plaintiff argued that because was the exclusive license of a song sampled in the Jay-Z song "Big Pimpin'", he had standing to sue Defendants for infringement. The court held that Plaintiff's standing had to be evaluated under the 1909 Copyright Act (due to the copyright date of the sampled song). Even if Plaintiff were deemed a co-exclusive licensee, the 1909 Act required Plaintiff to join the author's heirs in the action, who were the copyright owners. He did not do so, and accordingly, lacked standing.

Rolling Stones Take on the Beatles-Fuego Suit

Here.

Of note is the following: "The lawsuit states that Fuego does not have permission to sell the fifteen-song performance because at the time of the recording the Beatles had already entered into an exclusive contract with EMI prohibiting the third party recordings of their concerts." (Emphasis added.)

Query - is Rolling Stone's analysis flawed? Or do they merely need to clarify?

The EMI-Beatles contract would likely have said something like "we (EMI) have the exclusive right to exploit your sound-recordings, which are really OUR sound recordings because any recording you make -- live, or in the studio -- you assign the copyright to us and/or is a work made for hire".

So, Fuego didn't have permission to sell the performance because EMI had the right to record and exploit Beatles' live performances. That the agreement prohibited third party recordings merely goes to the fact that Fuego did not get permission to record and/or exploit the concerts from EMI. Even if the Beatles had not already entered into a recording agreement with EMI, there would still need to be authorization from someone (e.g., the Beatles). Thus, notwithstanding the contracts relevance, isn't its existence at the time of the recording dispositive as to standing -- who is the proper plaintiff -- rather than to the issue of copyright liability?