Plaintiff Mark Christopher “Chris” Sevier authored a song entitled “Better.” Defendant Shanna Crooks recorded the song and, because they were pleased with the results, they co-authored and recorded a second song, “Watching Me Leave.” Their relationship then collapsed, Crooks signed as a recording artist with unrelated recording and management companies, and various
accusations and altercations followed, precipitating this action. Sevier and his recording company, Severe Records, LLC (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed suit, alleging what Sevier characterized as a “novel” claim of copyright infringement against Crooks and
others for preventing Plaintiffs from commercially exploiting the two songs through threats contained in cease-and-desist letters and requests to music retailers that the songs not be offered for sale. Plaintiffs also sought a declaratory judgment regarding the authorship of the songs and ownership of the copyrights to the two songs. The district court dismissed the amended complaint for failing to state a claim of copyright infringement and declined to consider Plaintiffs’ pendent state law claims or issue a declaratory judgment. The 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the copyright infringement claim and reversed its dismissal of the
declaratory judgment claim.
There is no allegation anywhere in the amended complaint that Crooks did anything with the musical composition “Better” other than utilize the sound recording that she and Sevier created and that she was admittedly permitted to use for commercial or non-commercial gain. Indeed, Plaintiffs conceded in paragraph 735 of their amended complaint that “[t]he Defendants did not engage in unauthorized copying, but rather, their actions prevented Plaintiffs from copying.” That ends the inquiry; no claim for copyright infringement was properly alleged. Plaintiffs’ allegation that “Crooks attempted to transfer and did transfer an interest in the composition ‘Better’, [sic] which she did not own, to the Rich Defendants” is not the same thing as creating an improper copy of “Better.” We read nothing in the plain language of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106, to suggest that such a transfer constitutes copyright infringement. We expressly decline Plaintiffs’ invitation to grossly expand copyright infringement causes of action to include any acts that create barriers to a copyright holder’s ability to fully exploit that copyright.