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Valley Entertainment, Inc. v. Friesen

February 17, 2010

VALLEY ENTERTAINMENT, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
WENDI FRIESEN AND WENDI.COM, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-Yeghiayan United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Count I, motion for summary judgment on Counts II, III, and IV, and partial motion for summary judgment seeking to limit the damages recovery. This matter is also before the court on Defendants' motion to strike. For the reasons stated below, we grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Count I, grant Defendants' motion to strike, and deny without prejudice Defendants' other motions for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Valley Entertainment Inc. (Valley) alleges that it is a record label and music publishing company. Valley claims to own the copyright to the master recordings of the songs "Resurrection," "In Paradiso," and "Primitive Silence," (collectively referred to as "Copyrighted Songs") that were composed by the artist Raphael. Defendants Wendi Friesen (Friesen) and Wendi.com allegedly produced and sold compact discs entitled "Happy Tummy" and "Zen of Thin Weight Release Program" (collectively referred to as "Friesen CDs"). (Compl. Par. 9). Valley claims that portions of the programs on the Friesen CDs included the Copyrighted Songs, and that Defendants used the Copyrighted Songs without permission. Valley includes in its complaint federal copyright infringement claims (Count I), common law copyright infringement claims (Count II), quantum meruit claims (Count III), and unjust enrichment claims (Count IV). Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on Count I, a motion for summary judgment on Counts II, III, and IV, and a partial motion for summary judgment seeking to limit Valley's recovery to a single statutory damages award.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). The court must consider the record as a whole, in a light most favorable to the non- moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences that favor the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Federal Copyright Infringement Claims (Count I)

Defendants move for summary judgment on the federal copyright infringement claims (Count I). For a federal copyright infringement claim , a plaintiff must establish: "'(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.'" Schrock v. Learning Curve Intern., Inc., 586 F.3d 513, 517 (7th Cir. 2009)(quoting in part Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991)).

A. PA Classification of Valley's Copyright

Defendants argue that Valley has failed to point to sufficient evidence to show an infringement of Copyright No. PAu 937-523, the only copyright identified prior to Valley's response to the instant motions for summary judgment. As Defendants correctly point out, a "PA" class copyright covers words and arrangements of sheet music, but the registration of such a copyright does not cover sound recordings of the words or music on the sheet music. See, e.g., Johnson v. Hill, 619 F. Supp.2d 537, 540, n.2 (N.D. Ill. 2008); Johnson v. Arista Holding, Inc., 2006 WL 3511894, at *2, n.4 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)(explaining that a PA copyright applies to the underlying composition, not the "master recording or physical embodiment of a musical performance"); Sonja-Kaplan Productions, Inc. v. Zippi, 1988 WL 92871, at *7 (E.D. Pa. 1988)(stating that [t]he administrative regulations promulgated by the Copyright Office place musical works into Class Pa: Works of the Performing Arts, while sound recordings are assigned a separate class" and "a Class PA copyright cannot, under the regulations, be construed to include the sound recording of the work").

Valley has not pointed to sufficient evidence to show that Defendants copied the sheet music of the Copyrighted Songs. Valley's case is premised upon the copying of the sound recordings of the Copyrighted Songs. Valley has thus failed to point to sufficient evidence to show an infringement of Copyright No. PAu 937-523, the copyright ...


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