March 5, 2008

More Moral Rights in Puerto Rico

We recently highlighted a copyright infringement case pending in Puerto Rico in which the plaintiff, along with their claims under the Copyright Act, alleged violations of their MORAL RIGHTS under Puerto Rico law.

Another case filed yesterday makes a similar claim. Rodriguez v. Emusica Records, LLC et al., No. 3:08-cv-01272-ADC (Dist. P.R. filed Mar. 4, 2008). Here, Plaintiff states under the heading "Nature of the Action" that in addition to this being an action for copyright infringement under 17 USC 101 et seq, "This action is also for moral rights violation, unfair competition, torts and unjust enrichment under the laws of Puerto Rico."

The gravamen of the complaint is as follows: plaintiff registered a copyright in the composition entitled "Rico Son", as well as the sound recording embodying a performance of the composition. The sound-recording appeared on a 2003 album entitled Rigo y su Obra Maestra - Conquistando al bailador, also registered to plaintiff. In 2007, plaintiff discovered that the sound-recording and underlying composition were being reproduced and distributed without authorization/license on a compilation entitled The Myth - FANIA - 45 Platinum Hits - Su Autentica Historia Musical by various entities in Spain and/or New York. Plaintiff alleges that his song "Rico Son" appeared on the allegedly infringing compilation under a different name ("Para Los Rumberos") and that authorship in the song was attributed to the late Tito Puente. However, "When the CD of reference is played in a CD player, the song that actually plays is the one of Plaintiff Rodriguez, 'Rico Son'."

Thus, plaintiff alleges that "Under the law of Puerto Rico, the use of this song and it's music recording by co-defendants also violates Plaintiff's moral rights of attribution." Plaintiff continues, in his second cause of action, "Co-Defendants did not make the corresponding authorship attribution to Plaintiff over his song and its music recording. This unauthorized use of Plaintiff's work has harmed his reputation and violated his moral rights of attribution as an author under the Puerto Rico Intellectual Property Law (31 L.P.R.A. sec 1401 et seq)."

Regarding damages under his moral rights claim, plaintiff seeks actual damages for an amount not less than $250,000, "pursuant to 31 L.P.R.A. 1401 et seq."

So, there you have it - another moral rights claim arising out of alleged copyright infringing in a a sound recording and underlying composition appearing in a US jurisdiction.

If such claims are viable, and ultimately successful, will mainland US plaintiffs somehow seek jurisdiction in Puerto Rico in order to tag a moral rights claim upon their copyright infringement claim? There is some case law indicating that Puerto Rico's moral rights law does not extend extraterritorially to distribution of infringing albums outside of Puerto Rico; so, the availability of limited damages may deter a mainland plaintiff from alleging a moral rights claim in Puerto Rico.

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