No Common Law Right of Public Performance In Pre-72 Sound Recordings; Issue Is For Legistlature

Flo & Eddie, Inc. v Sirius XM Radio, Inc., 2016 NYSlipOp 08480 (N.Y. 12/20/2016).

New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, holds that "New York common-law copyright does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of sound recordings," answering in the negative the Second Circuit's certified question in the Flo & Eddie (Turtles) case against Sirius satellite radio concerning alleged common law copyright infringement of pre-1972 sound recordings.  In a lengthy majority opinion authored by Justice Stein, the Court discussed the historical treatment of sound-recordings at both the federal and state level, analyzed prior decisions in both New York state court and the 2nd Circuit, and ultimately held that "New York common law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings" and that the state legislature should decide "whether recognizing a right of public performance in sound recordings is a good idea.

In addition to prior decisions, the Court addressed the practice of interested stake-holders in the music industry.

Indeed, it would be illogical to conclude that the right of public performance would have existed for decades without the courts recognizing such a right as a matter of state common law, and in the absence of any artist or record company attempting to enforce that right in this state until now. The absence of a right of public performance in sound recordings was discussed at the federal level for years and became acutely highlighted in 1971, upon enactment of the Sound Recording Amendment, and again in 1995, upon enactment of the DPRA. At those times, all interested parties were placed on notice of the statute's limited rights for post-1972 sound recordings. Although parties do not lose their rights merely by failing to enforce them, the fact that holders of rights to sound recordings took no action whatsoever to assert common-law protection for at least the past four decades — when the absence of a comprehensive federal right of public performance for sound recordings was clear — supports our conclusion that artists and copyright holders did not believe such a right existed in the common law.
***
Simply stated, New York's common-law copyright has never recognized a right of public performance for pre-1972 sound recordings. Because the consequences of doing so could be extensive and far-reaching, and there are many competing interests at stake, which we are not equipped to address, we decline to create such a right for the first time now. Even the District Court here, while finding the existence of a common-law copyright of public performance in sound recordings, acknowledged that such a right was "unprecedented," would upset settled expectations, and would "have significant economic consequences" (62 F Supp 3d at 352). Under these circumstances, the recognition of such a right should be left to the legislature.

Notably, the Court did not foreclose the plaintiffs' claims under other common-law theories of recovery, like unfair competition.

Finally, we note that sound recording copyright holders may have other causes of action, such as unfair competition, which are not directly tied to copyright law. Indeed, in the present case, plaintiff prevailed in the District Court on its causes of action alleging unfair competition and unauthorized copying of sound recordings. The Second Circuit concluded that defendant had copied plaintiff's recordings, but postponed the questions of fair use and unfair competition until after our resolution of the certified question (821 F3d at 270 n 4, 272). Thus, even in the absence of a common-law right of public performance, plaintiff has other potential avenues of recovery.

The concurring opinion, by Justice Fahey, agreed that the issue should be determined by the legislature but accepted the Second Circuit's invitation to opine on how to define "public performance" and stated

To that end, while I agree with the conclusion of my colleagues in the majority that the common law of this state does not recognize a right of public performance, I would answer the pertinent part of the certified question in the negative with this caveat: "public performance" does not include the act of allowing members of the public to receive the "on-demand" transmission of particular sound recordings specifically selected by those listeners.

Lastly, Justice Rivera dissented: "New York's broad and flexible common-law copyright protections for sound recordings encompass a public performance right that extends to the outer boundaries of current federal law, and ceases upon preemption by Congress."

Rapper Can't Use "Rolls Royce" Name Or Images

Rolls-Royce Motor Cards v. Davis, No. 15-0417 (D.N.J. Mar. 11, 2016).

On an unopposed motion for default judgment, the Court entered a permanant injunction restraining the defendant rapper from using the name "Rolls Royce Rizzy" and using Rolls Royce imagery.  Plaintiff brought claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and trademark dilution under the Lanham Act, and was awarded default judgment on those claims.  However, Plaintiff was not awarded default judgment on its claim for unfair competition under New Jersey common law.

Most "BOSTON" Trademark Claims Dismissed In Dispute Between Former Band Members

Scholz v. Goudreau, No. 13-cv-10951 (D. Mass. Memo & Order Sep. 21, 2015).

In a trademark dispute between two original members of the band BOSTON, the Court dismissed most of the claims against a guitarist on the band's first two albums concerning the promotion of his current musical endeavors.  Plaintiff's direct trademark infringement claims were dismissed with respect to various advertisements and performances, as well as defendant's use of meta-tags on his website.  The contributory infringement claim survived summary judgment only with respect to defendant's invovlement with one band on the issue of direct control and monitoring of that band's advertisements and promotions.  Plaintiff's claim for dilution by tarnishment failed because the alleged use, in connection with a political event, was not a use in commerce.  As to unfair competition under the Lanham Act and Mass. state common law, plaintiff failed to establish evidence of reputational injury.  As to breach of contract, plaintiff fialued to establish that defendant (and not third parties) violated a prior settlement agreement by deviating from the agreed to term "formerly of BOSTON".  As to the "Truth In Music Statute," under Mass. state law, the Court found the statute applicable only to performances in Mass., and as to the two subject performances in the state, neither group sought to perform under the BOSTON name.

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.

Breach Of Contract Claim Survives In "Daydream Believer" Royalty Suit Concerning Foreign Publishing

Stewart v. Screen Gems-EMI Music, Inc., No. 3:14-cv-04805 (N.D. Cal. filed Mar. 2, 2015) [Doc. 45].

Plaintiff alleges that defendants -- various EMI defendants -- wrongfully withheld publishing royalties to the song "Daydream Believer" written by Plaintiff's late-husband.  The claims arise out of a 1967 songwriter's agreement, which has a "net receipts" (not "at source") arrangement, meaning that the publisher is only obligated to remit to the songwriter a certain percentage of revenue the publisher actually receives after deducting applicable fees and costs.  Plaintiff contended that Defendants were improperly deducting from the song's foreign receipts fees that defendant paid to affiliated foreign sub-publishers that are alter egos of defendant and operate as part of a single enterprise (i.e., defendant was effectively paying itself and then deducting those payments from the receipts to reduce the "net receipts").  Defendants moved to dismissed.  The Court granted the motion to dismiss of defendants EMI and EMI North America for lack of personal jurisdiction; but, found that Plaintiff had stated a claim against defendant Screen Gems-EMI for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and for an accounting.

State-Law Copyright And Unfair Competition Claims Relating To In-Flight Music Services Not Preempted

UMG Recordings v. Global Eagle Entertainment, No. 14-03466 MMM (C.D. Cal. dated Feb. 23, 2015).

The Court denied defendant airline's motion to dismiss claims for copyright infringement under California law, along with California unfair competition claims, finding that even if in-flight entertainment qualifies as a service as that term is used in the Airline Deregulation Act, any connection between the service and plaintiffs' claims was too tenuous and remote to justify preemption.

Plaintiffs were various record companies and music publishers.  They contended that defendants provided “various airlines” sound recordings and music videos that the airlines then publicly perform to their passengers.  Defendants contended that the court should dismiss the record company plaintiffs’ state law copyright infringement and unfair competition claims because the claims were preempted by the Deregulation Act.  Congress enacted the Deregulation Act in 1978 after determining that maximum reliance on competitive market forces would best further efficiency, innovation, and low prices as well as variety and quality of air transportation services."

Only Breach Of Contract Claim Survives in Ozzy Osbourne Guitarist Case

Rhoads v. Margolis, No. B249800 (Cal. App. Ct., 2d Dist. - Div. 7, Jan. 26, 2015).

Only a breach of contract claim survived in an action, brought by the family of a well-known rock guitarist who died in a 1982 plane crash, against Defendants based on the family's grant of the right to use personal information and memorabilia to make a documentary film about the deceased guitarist.  When the documentary project faltered, defendants instead published a book about the guitarist.  The family sued, alleging the book was based on materials they had provided for the exclusive purpose of making the documentary film.  Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.

On appeal, the Court found that the Anti-SLAPP Statute (section 425.16) applied because the principal thrust of every claim was premised on the allegation that the defendants, in researching, writing and publishing the book, used the family's proprietary material provided solely for the purpose of the documentary.  Whether or not defendants violated the terms of the agreement, their conduct in writing and publishing the book qualified as a form of protected activity.  With the exception of the breach of contract claim, the family failed to establish a probability of prevailing on its claims. The fraud claim failed because there was no allegation that the defendants intended to create the book at the time of the agreement.  The misappropriation claim (based on the right of privacy) failed because the alleged acts did not implicate the personal privacy or publicity rights of the guitarist's family members.  Additionally, the life and death of the guitarist was a matter of public interest.  The unfair competition claim failed because plaintiffs had not articulated an actionable manner in which the public was likely to be deceived by the book or that consumers suffered substantial injury.

Iggy Azalea Granted Preliminary Injunction To Prevent The Posting Of Early Recordings

Kelley v. Primco Management, Inc., No. 14-cv-07263 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 12, 2015).

Pop star Iggy Azalea obtained a preliminary injunction based on claims that Defendants misappropriated the contents of her computer and began releasing infringing songs and music videos.  Defendants claims that they had authority to use Azalea's name, likeness and various intellectual property assets pursuant to a Recording Agreement.  Azalea claimed that the document was forged, and that was the key issue before the Court because no party disputed that Defendants had exploited Azalea's copyrights, trademarks and right of publicity.  The Court held an evidentiary hearing and discussed the evidence presented on whether the document was forged.  It concluded that, even though there was sharply conflicting testimony, Azalea had at the very least raised serious questions about the validity of the agreement, and therefore had raised serious questions going to the merits of her claims which were enough to grant a preliminary injunction.  The court then considered the factors necessary for a preliminary injunction -- likelihood of success on the merits, threat of irreparable harm, balancing the equities, and the public interest -- and found that an injunction was warranted.  Azalea was ordered to post a $20,000 bond.

New York Common Law Protects Public Performance of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings; NY Federal Court Joins California Federal Court

Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM, Inc., No. 1:13-cv-05784 (S.D.N.Y. filed Nov. 14, 2014) [Doc. 88].

Joining a California federal court in a parallel case, a New York federal court found that Flo & Eddie (the Turtles) have state common law claims against Sirius XM concerning the public performance of pre-1972 sound recordings.  "In short, general principles of common law copyright dictate that public performance rights in pre-1972 sound recordings do exist.  New York has always protected public performance rights in works other than sound recordings that enjoy the protection of common law copyright.  Sirius suggests no reason why New York -- a state traditionally protective of performers and performance rights -- would treat sound recordings differently."

First, the court found that plaintiff holds valid common law copyrights in the Turtles' sound recordings.  "The Turtles originally acquired a common law copyright in their sound recordings by expending time, effort, money and skill to create them.  That copyright was then transferred...eventually to Flo and Eddie, which now owns the sound recordings."

Second, the Court found that Flo and Eddie's common law copyright provides exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly perform Turtles recordings.  As to the absence of prior litigation on the matter, "acquiescence by participants in the recording industry in a status quo where recording artists and producers were not paid royalties while songwriters were does not show that they lacked an enforceable right under the common law -- only that they failed to act on it."  The court did not read too much into the fact that New York courts have never squarely addressed this particular feature of state copyright law in the context of sound recordings.

Third, the Court found that Sirius infringed plaintiff's common law copyright and engaged in unfair competition (misappropriation).  In reproducing Turtles recordings, Sirius acted without authorization.  Further, to the extent that distribution is an element of common law copyright, the Court found that publicly performing sound recordings is an act of distribution.

Moreover, even though the Court found that there is a common law fair use defense parallel to the federal fair use defense, Sirius XMs creation of multiple complete copies of the sound recordings could not be considered a fair use.  "It is a matter of economic commons sense that Sirius harms Flo and Eddie's sales and potential licensing fees (even if the latter market is not yet extant) by publicly performing Turtles sound recordings."

Lastly, the Court rejected Sirius XM's argument that plaintiff's claims are barred by the constitutional Dormant Commerce Clause, which provides that states may not interfere with interstate commerce.  U.S. Const. art. I, sec. 8.  The court found that the argument is a "red herring" because New York does not "regulate" anything by recognizing common law copyright.  Sirius objects to a "general principle respecting the liability of all persons within the jurisdiction of" New York, which under the 1876 (yes, 1876) Supreme Court decision Sherlock v. Alling, 93 U.S. 99,  is not a state-imposed regulation that might affect interstate commerce.

Punitive Damages Verdict Significantly Reduced; Defendant Granted Judgment Notwithstanding Verdict On Cover Art And DMCA "Red Flag" Theories

Capitol Records, Inc. v. MP3Tunes, No. 07-cv-9931 (S.D.N.Y. filed Sep. 29, 2014) [Doc. 629].

Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law, or alternatively a new trial, and for remittur following a $48,061,073 jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs, who consisted of record labels and publishers who had filed copyright and unfair competition claims alleging that defendant and MP3Tunes made infringing copies of copyright songs and cover art.  The motion was denied in part, and granted in part.  Specifically, defendant's motion for judgment as a matter of law was granted as to plaintiffs' claims of (1) public display rights in cover art, and (2) copyright infringement under "red flag" knowledge and willful blindness theories (except for certain works sideloaded and which the source domain's URL was obviously infringing and viewed by a company executive).  Further, defendant's motion for a new trial on punitive damages was granted unless plaintiffs elected to remit the jury's punitive damage award to $750,000.

Beatles Rights Holders Did Not Interfere With Film's Release By Asserting Copyright Claims

Ace Arts, LLC v. Sony/ATV Music Publishing, No. 13-cv-7307-AJN (S.D.N.Y. filed Sep. 26, 2014).

This action arises from the use of eight Beatles songs in a documentary film, "The Lost Concert."  Plaintiff alleges that defendants (publisher and record label) interfered with the US distribution of the film by asserting copyright claims regarding those songs.  According to the allegations in the complaint and certain judicially noticeable documents (e.g., copyright registrations), the Beatles first performance in the US took place in 1964, twelve songs were played, and defendant had copyright registrations for 8 of the songs.  The concert was preserved on a certain video tape.  In 2009, a production company acquired the video tape and produced The Lost Concert film, which consists of the concert footage and other sequences and interviews.  Plaintiff was granted distribution rights by the producers.  In 2009, the producers approached Sony ATV for a synch license.  Plaintiff's allege that at Apple's request, Sony refused to grant the producers a synch license, and instead Sony granted Apple an exclusive synch license for Apple's distribution of certain Beatles material on iTunes.  Nonetheless, the producers and distributor believed that there was no legal obstacle to distributing the film and arranged for a premier and distribution in the USA and UK.  Sony ATV sought an injunction against the producers in the UK alleging that the film would infringe Sony's copyrights.  The US premier was then cancelled after Sony ATV made a claim to the distributor's partner.  Eventually, the plaintiff commenced the action seeking a declaration, inter alia, that neither Sony ATV nor Apple has rights that would be infringed by exploitation of the film in the USA, and that Sony ATV "misused its copyrights."

First the Court denied the defendants' request to stay the US federal action pending resolution of the UK action.  The Court found no exceptional circumstances to justify abstention.

Second, the Court found that the controversy was ripe for a declaratory judgment claim.

Third, the Court analyzed plaintiff's anti-trust claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.  The Court found that, as alleged, the agreements between Sony ATV and Apple -- in particular their efforts to enforce Apple's exclusive synch license by preventing the US distribution of the film -- did not constitute horizontal restraints on trade that are a per se violation of the Sherman Act.  Nor was there an anti-trust violation under the "rule of reason" because the allegations concerned a routine dispute between business competitors that is not cognizable under the Sherman Act.

Fourth, the Court considered the tortious interference with contract and economic relations claims, which was based on the allegation that Sony ATV and Applied conspired to interfere with the distribution contract by stating that the film infringed on Sony ATV's copyrights.  The Court found that plaintiff failed to adequately plead breach of the contract because it was possible that the distribution contract was lawfully terminated.  The complaint did not identify which section of the contract was breached, "a particularly damaging omission in light of the provisions in the contract suggesting that [the distribution partner] had the right to suspend working on, distributing or exhibiting all or any portion of the film for which the partner received a demand or claim.  Further, plaintiff failed to allege the use of "wrongful means."  Sony ATV steadfastly  maintained that it owns the rights to the song, and it did not assert copyright claims in bad faith.  The bare legal conclusions of malice were insufficient.

Fifth, the Court considered plaintiff's unfair competition claim under New York common law.  The Court rejected an extension of the common law claim (which has two theories: for palming off and misappropriation) to include "commercial immorality."

Finally, the Court considered Plaintiff's claim under NY GBL sec. 349.  The Court found that defendants' alleged conduct was not consumer-oriented.  It was not a standard-issue consumer oriented transaction that section 349 was designed to protect.

California Law Protects Public Performance Right In Pre-1972 Sound Recordings; Turtles Granted Summary Judgment Against Sirius

Flo & Eddie Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., et al., No. 2:13-cv-05693-PSG-RZ (C.D. Cal. filed Sep. 22, 2014) (Doc. 117).

Plaintiff, owner of all rights to The Turtles’ master sound recordings (including the hit "Happy Together"), was granted summary judgment against Sirius XM on its causes of action for violation of California
copyright law (California Civil Code § 980(a)(2)), California’s Unfair Competition Law (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200, et seq.), and common law misappropriation and conversion, but only so far as the claims were premised on Sirius XM’s public performance of Plaintiff's recordings, not its alleged reproductions for which there were outstanding questions of fact.

Plaintiff argued that Sirius XM was liable for two distinct unauthorized uses of its sound recordings: (1) publicly performing its recordings by broadcasting and streaming the content to end consumers and to secondary delivery and broadcast partners, and (2) reproducing the recordings in the process of operating its satellite and Internet radio services.  Plaintiff contended that, in California, copyright ownership of a pre-1972 sound recording includes the exclusive right to publicly perform the recording; therefore, if anyone wishes to publicly perform such a recording, they must first seek authorization from the recording’s owner.  The Court agreed.

First, the Court found that California statutory and common law governs the rights that attach to pre-1972 sound recordings because the Federal Copyright Act does not apply to those earlier recordings and explicitly allows states to continue to regulate them.  Second, the Court examined the provision of California’s copyright statute that contains a provision directly addressing pre-1972 sound recordings. Cal. Civ. Code § 980(a)(2) ("The author of an original work of authorship consisting of a sound recording initially fixed prior to February 15, 1972, has an exclusive ownership therein until February 15, 2047, as against all persons except one who independently makes or duplicates another sound recording that does not directly or indirectly recapture the actual sounds fixed in such prior recording, but consists entirely of an independent fixation of other sounds, even though such sounds imitate or simulate the sounds contained in the prior sound
recording").

The crucial point of statutory interpretation for this case was whether “exclusive ownership” of a sound recording carries within it the exclusive right to publicly perform the recording.  The Court’s textual reading of § 980(a)(2) was that the legislature intended ownership of a sound recording in California to include all rights that can attach to intellectual property, save the singular, expressly-stated exception for making “covers” of a recording.

The Court further found that the rule of statutory construction requiring express statements to alter the common law did not apply because, when the legislature passed § 980(a)(2), there was no common law rule in California rejecting public performance rights in sound recording ownership.  Also, the legislative history of § 980(a)(2) and its comparison to the Federal Copyright Act bolstered the Court’s plain textual reading of the statute that sound recording ownership is inclusive of all ownership rights that can attach to intellectual property, including the right of public performance, excepting only the limited right expressly stated in the law (that the owner does not have the exclusive right to record and duplicate “covers").  Lastly, the Court found further support for its textual reading of the statute as inclusive of the right of public performance from the only two courts that have ruled on or discussed this right under § 980(a)(2).  Accordingly, the Court granted summary judgment on copyright infringement in violation of § 980(a)(2) in favor of Plaintiff.

Borrowing the violation of § 980, the Court found that Sirius also violated California's Unfair Competition Law because Sirius publicly performs Plaintiff's sound recordings without authorization to do so.  Also, the Court found that Sirius XM’s unauthorized performances established conversion damages in the form of license fees that Sirius XM should have paid Plaintiff in order to publicly perform its recordings.  The foregone licensing or royalty payments that Sirius XM should have paid before publicly performing the recordings also constituted misappropriation.

Lastly, the Court found that Sirius could not rely on the doctrine of laches because this was an action at law seeking money damages, and laches is an equitable defense.  Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on all causes of action, but only so far as the claims are premised on Sirius XM’s public performance of the recordings, not its alleged reproductions.

Suit Filed Over Beatles Movie

Ace Arts LLC v. Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC et al.; No. 13-cv-7307 (S.D.N.Y. filed Oct. 16, 2013).

The Beatles' music publisher and record company were sued in connection with plaintiff's contract to distribute a film, The Beatles: The Lost Concert, which documents the impact the Beatles had in the USA and their first concert in Washington DC in 1964.  Plaintiff claims $100 million in damages for alleged violation of the Sherman Act, tortious interference with contract, interference with prospective economic relations, unfair competition, and violation of the N.Y. General Business Law.

CLE "Does The DMCA Apply To Pre-1972 Sound Recordings"

This afternoon, David Rabinowitz and I co-presented a CLE entitled "Why The Internet Distribution of Pre-1972 Sound Recordings Is Different From Everything Else In Copyright Law -or- Does The DMCA Apply To Pre-1972 Sound Recordings."  Topics included a brief history of copyright in sound recordings, the scope of common law copyright protection, federal preemption of common law copyright (except for pre-1972 recordings), related claims of unfair competition, the DMCA safe-harbor, conflicting case law on whether the DMCA safe-harbor applies to pre-1972 recordings, and conflicting decisions on whether there is immunity for service providers under the Communications Decency Act.  Thank you to those who attended.

Capitol's Motion To Dismiss Class Action Denied

Davis v. Capitol Records, LLC, No. 4:12-cv-01602-YGR  (N.D. Cal. filed 04/18/13) [Doc. 73].


Plaintiff brought the action as a member of the music group, “The Motels,” and a shareholder, beneficiary, and/or successor-in-interest of the now-dissolved The Motels Music Corporation, Inc.  She brought the complaint alleging a nationwide class action for breach of standard recording contracts and for statutory violations of California law against Defendant Capitol Records, LLC (“Capitol”).  Plaintiff alleged that Capitol failed to account properly for royalties stemming from the licensing of musical performances or recordings produced by Plaintiff and putative class members under contract with Capitol, which were then were utilized by digital content providers, such as music download providers, music streaming providers, and ringtone providers, for digital download, streaming and distribution.  Capitol moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

First, Capitol argued that the claims were time-barred under the parties' agreement relating to objecting to royalty statements.  However, the Court found that Plaintiff's allegations "arguably support a basis for tolling of the contractual limitations period."  (Emphasis added).  Accordingly, the motion to dismiss on limitations grounds was denied.

Second, Capitol moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief as duplicative of her claim for
breach of contract.  The Court held that it could not determine, as a matter of law, that declaratory relief would be duplicative or otherwise inappropriate such that it should be dismissed at the pleading stage.

Third, Capitol moved to dismiss Plaintiff;s claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing on the grounds that it is duplicative of her breach of contract claim. The Court disagreed.

Fourth, Plaintiff alleged a claim for violation of California Business & Professions Code section 17200, California’s Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), based upon all three prongs of the statute – that is, unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent conduct. Capitol sought to dismiss the claim to the extent it is based upon either unlawful or fraudulent conduct.  As to the fraud prong, the Court found that Plaintiff's pleadings contained sufficient particularity to survive.  As to the unlawful prong, the Court found that, "Where, as here, the complaint alleges systemic conduct meant to breach the terms of, or deny the benefits of, agreements between the defendant and a group of similarly situated parties, it is sufficient state a claim for an unfair business practice in violation of the UCL."

Fifth, the Court struck Plaintiff's demand for punitive damages.


No Infringement Of Plot

Bolfrass v Warner Music Group, No. 1:12-cv-06648-LLS (S.D.N.Y. filed 04/02/2013) [Doc. 13].

Plaintiff alleged that a song published by defendant Warner Music ("Warner") infringed his copyright on his screenplay, in violation of the Copyright Act of 1976.  Warner moved to dismiss and for attorneys fees.  Warner's motion to dismiss was granted and its application for the award of attorney's s and costs was denied.

First, the Court examined whether Plaintiff's "plot" was afforded copyright protection.  The Court found that "the similarity two works here lies in their concepts, abstracted to a high degree of generality. Both are based on a concept of planetary breakdown and space travel, but their treatment is very different."  It concluded that "Because the lyrics of "Exogenesis: Symphony" do not express a plot, they do not infringe on "Panspermia: ExoGenesis."  The online liner notes a plot, but one that is far too abstract and general to infringe on Bollfrass' copyright."  Accordingly, the copyright claim was dismissed.

Second, the Court examined Plaintiff's claim for unfair competition, and found that it was preempted by the Copyright Act.  "Bollfrass' claim for unfair competition based only on Jarner's distribution of the allegedly
infringing song is therefore preempted by the Copyright Act.".

Third, the Court examined Warner's request for attorneys fees.  Ultimately, the request was denied on a "close call."

Don Henley Complaint Against Politician

Don Henley v. Devore, No. 09 Cv. 0481-JVS (C.D. Cal. complaint filed 4/17/2009)


"This action arises out of the wholesale appropriation and exploitation by Defendants DeVore and Hart of the well-known and valuable song "The Boys of Summer," written by Plaintiffs Don Henley and Mike CampbelL. Defendants' infringing conduct is unauthorized, brazenly wilful, and pursued solely in order to promote DeVore and Hart's personal and professional agenda. Openly flouting Henley and Campbell's intellectual property rights, DeVore and Hart copied almost
all of Henley and Campbell's copyrighted musical composition note for note and, altering the lyrics to suit their own purpose and using a recorded performance of the work to mimic the original Henley recording, produced and distributed a video featuring Henley and Campbell's song (the "Boys of Summer Video"). DeVore and Hart's avowed aim in doingthis was to use the Boys of Summer Video to promote DeVore's campaign for th~ Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2010.

MP3Tunes Decision on Counterclaims

Defendant's counterclaims Dismissed:

DMCA claim
New York's GBL 349 (re: consumer protection)
Common law unfair competition
California Business and Professional Code 17200

Defendant's counterclaims NOT dismissed:

Declaratory judgment claim that it is a service provider protected by the safe-harbor provision of 17 USC 512 (of the DMCA)

[No. 1:07-cv-09931-WHP-FM (Doc. 73 filed Mar. 4, 2009).]

Sean Combs Sued Over Glass Design of Cologne Bottle

Patti v. Combs, No. 3:09-cv-30017-MAP (D. Mass. filed Jan. 28, 2009).

Plaintiff claims infringement of his registered copyrights for glass sculptures by defendants' exploitation of bottle used for Sean Jean brand cologne.

Trade dress infringement and unfair competition also alleged.