January 29, 2008

Moral Rights in Puerto Rico?

In a case filed in the District of Puerto Rico for copyright infringement arising out of defendant record-label's alleged willful breach of royalty agreement, the artist/"MC" plaintiff included a claim for "moral damages under Puerto Rico's copyright act."

There are two main claims under this count of the complaint: first that the version of a song unlawfully published and distributed by defendant "severely altered" the artist's "voice and delivery". Second, "as the song's author, [plaintiff] has the moral right to protect the integrity of the same". Damages under the claim are alleged to be $100,000.

Traditionally, moral right claims are an claim in international copyright cases - not in the U.S.! Is Puerto Rico the only U.S. territory to have a moral rights law?

Interestingly, plaintiff also makes a claim for attorney's fees under 17 U.S.C. 505 (an actual count! Not just in there prayer for relief!).

Lastly, plaintiff raises an issue over a song re-recorded by defendant. Though a publishing claim by the author is feasible, the complaint appears to mix its analysis of basic copyright law: the distinction between sound recordings and musical compositions. ("Upon hearing the song...re-record the same in Record Inc's studio.")

*Note: the complaint is labeled "Plaintiff Requests Trial By Jury".

[Pascual v. Pina Records, Inc.; case no. 3:08-cv-01114-GAG; filed 1/28/08; D. Puerto Rico]

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