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.