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DOUCETTE v. VIBE RECORDS

December 19, 2005.

CHANTELE DOUCETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
VIBE RECORDS, INC., and TIMOTHY OLPHIE, Defendants. VIBE RECORDS, INC. and TIMOTHY OLPHIE, Third-Party Plaintiffs, v. SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, DONNIE IENNER; CBS BROADCASTING, INC., RYSHER ENTERTAINMENT, LLC; 2929 ENTERTAINMENT; THE MUSIC PALACE RECORDING STUDIOS, INC., MICHAEL A. BONA, PAUL SCATURRO, ANTHONY J. DOUCETTE, HIT MANAGEMENT, LLC, PATRICK J. O'CONNELL, and JOHN GORE, Third-Party Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SPATT, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

This action was commenced by Chantele Doucette ("Doucette" or the "Plaintiff") against Vibe Records, Inc., and its principal Timothy Olphie (collectively "Vibe" or the "Defendants") for breach of contract, declaratory relief, false advertising, and unauthorized use of image and likeness, arising out of an alleged 1998 recording contract she entered into with the Defendants.

  In turn, the Defendants have filed a third-party complaint against Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Donnie Ienner; CBS Broadcasting, Inc., Rysher Entertainment, LLC; 2929 Entertainment; the Music Palace Recording Studios, Inc., Michael A. Bona, Paul Scaturro, Anthony J. Doucette, Hit Management, LLC, Patrick J. O'Connell, and John Gore, alleging various causes of action for breach of contract, usurpation of corporate opportunity, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with contractual relations, civil conspiracy, copyright infringement, violations of the Lanham Act, and unjust enrichment. Currently before the Court are motions by 2929 Entertainment, CBS Broadcasting, Inc., Rysher Entertainment, LLC, Anthony J. Doucette, Donnie Ienner, and Sony BMG Music Entertainment (collectively, the "Third-party Defendants") to dismiss the third-party complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 14(a).

  I. BACKGROUND

  The following facts are taken from the complaint unless otherwise noted. Doucette is a recording artist and performer who has been singing and dancing since the age of three. She has worked for Opryland Productions, Royal Carribean Cruise Lines, and debuted on Broadway as a dancer in "The Wizard of Oz." Most notably, Doucette was chosen as the grand prize winner on the CBS television program entitled "Star Search."

  On October 10, 1997, prior to her appearance on Star Search, Doucette signed an exclusive artist recording agreement (the "Agreement") with Vibe. The complaint alleges that one of the essential points of the Agreement was that Vibe would have a period of one year for the Plaintiff to make a limited number of recordings, which Vibe would then attempt to distribute through a major record company. The Agreement allegedly specifically provided that the Agreement would terminate if Vibe was unable to obtain a distribution agreement with a major record company during the first year. According to the complaint, Vibe never obtained a distribution agreement, and thus under the terms, the agreement terminated as of May 16, 1999.

  During the term of the Agreement, Doucette recorded five songs, two of which, entitled "Lovin' You" and "Color My World," were commercially released by Vibe as single songs. Vibe presently has possession of the audiotapes embodying the recordings made by Doucette. According to the complaint, Vibe was obligated to render royalty accountings on a periodic basis reflecting units sold and income derived from the commercial exploitation of the Plaintiff's recordings. However, Vibe allegedly never rendered any royalty accounting. The Plaintiff claims she is entitled to damages for this breach of the Agreement.

  Doucette also alleges that several years after the agreement had terminated, Vibe, in an attempt to capitalize on Doucette's success as the Star Search winner, announced the release of a purported "new single" by Doucette. However, the claimed "new single" that was released was the same song "Lovin' You" produced by Vibe years before. In connection with the marketing and promotion of this recording, the Defendants also allegedly wrongfully appropriated the likeness of the Plaintiff and Star Search by using excerpts from her performance on Star Search and the Star Search logo without prior authorization or consent from CBS Inc.

  According to the sparse factual allegations in the third-party complaint with regard to the Third-party Defendants, Vibe states that "[a]lthough [they were] aware that [the] Plaintiff was under contract with [the] Third-party Plaintiffs, [the] Third-party Defendants signed [the] Plaintiff to a competing contract with [the] Third-party Defendant Sony Music." Thereafter, Vibe alleges that it placed the Third-party Defendants "in a position of agency, trust, and confidence" and "transferred and made available certain confidential information and certain valuable intellectual, property rights without compensation for the same." In addition, Vibe alleges that the Third-party Defendants wrongfully utilized the song "Lovin' You" during Doucette's performance on Star Search without the permission or consent of Vibe.

  As a result these alleged acts, Vibe seeks redress in the form of monetary and injunctive relief, including lost earnings and profits, as well as punitive damages. Vibe asserts a number of legal theories to support its position against the Third-Party Defendants involved in this motion, such as usurpation of corporate opportunity, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with contractual relations, civil conspiracy, copyright infringement, violations of the Lanham Act, and unjust enrichment.

  The Third-party Defendants filed this motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 14(a) contending that the claims asserted by Vibe are not related to, involved with, or derivative of the original claims asserted by Doucette, and thus are not proper in the context of a third-party action. In addition, the Third-party Defendants also argue that even if the complaint is proper under Rule 14(a), they nevertheless fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). In response, Vibe argues that the third-party complaint is sufficient, but requests "leave to amend their complaint against [the] Third-Party Defendant or to file a separate action against the Third-Party Defendants."

  II. DISCUSSION

  A. Third-party Practice Under Rule 14(a)

  Rule 14(a) governs third-party practice in federal court. The rule states, in relevant part:
At any time after commencement of the action a defending party, as a third-party plaintiff, may cause a summons and complaint to be served upon a person not a party to the action who is or may be liable to the third-party plaintiff for all or ...

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