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Maverick Recording Co. v. Goldshteyn

July 31, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Trager, J


Plaintiffs Maverick Recording Company, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC and Warner Brothers Records Inc. (collectively, the "plaintiffs") are recording companies that own exclusive rights to sound recordings under United States copyright law. Plaintiffs allege that the defendant, Anna Goldshteyn ("Goldshteyn"), has infringed these exclusive rights by downloading and distributing certain sound recordings using an online media distribution network, specifically over a peer to peer network. For their injuries, plaintiffs seek both monetary and injunctive relief. Goldshteyn moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that plaintiffs have not pled the allegedly violative acts with sufficient specificity to state a claim for which relief may be granted.


Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their complaint, which, for the purposes of this motion to dismiss, are taken as true. Plaintiffs are the copyright owners or licensees of exclusive rights to certain copyrighted sound recordings (the "copyrighted recordings"), each of which is the subject of a valid Certificate of Copyright Registration. (Compl. ¶ 10; compl. ex. A.) Among the rights granted to each plaintiff under copyright law are the exclusive rights to reproduce the copyrighted recordings and to distribute them to the public. (Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs allege that although published copies of these recordings were widely available for purchase, Goldshteyn illegally reproduced and distributed them using the Internet. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.)

The relevant portion of the complaint states:

Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Defendant, without the permission or consent of Plaintiffs, has used, and continues to use, an online media distribution system to download the Copyrighted Recordings, to distribute the Copyrighted Recordings to the public, and/or to make the Copyrighted Recordings available for distribution to others. In doing so, Defendant has violated Plaintiffs' exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiffs claim that Goldshsteyn's acts were willful and intentional (id. ¶ 14) and have caused injury that cannot be fully measured in monetary terms. (Id. ¶ 16.) They, therefore, seek, in addition to statutory damages, an injunction requiring Goldshteyn to destroy all copies of illegally reproduced recordings in her possession and enjoining her from further infringing their copyrights through use of the Internet. (Id.)



Motion to Dismiss: Legal Standards Goldshteyn moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the grounds that it fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted. (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem.") 1.) In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Franklin Elec. Publ'rs, Inc. v. Unisonic Prods. Corp., 763 F. Supp. 1, 3 (S.D.N.Y. 1991). On such motions the non-moving party will prevail "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Id. (citing Conley v. Gibson, 335 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).


Sufficiency of the Complaint Goldshteyn contends that the pleadings do not provide grounds for relief because they do not allege with sufficient specificity the acts constituting copyright infringement or the times during which those acts occurred. (Def.'s Mem. 2.) She also asserts that plaintiffs' allegations, pled on information and belief, fail to state a claim because they lack facts indicating the source of plaintiffs' belief. (Id.) On both points Goldshteyn's arguments are unavailing.

a. Specificity of the Allegations

To withstand dismissal pursuant to 12(b)(6), a claim of copyright infringement must meet the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Franklin, 763 F. Supp. at 4 (rejecting 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss because the complaint met the requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)). Rule 8(a) requires that a complaint contain a "short and plain statement" that gives the defendant "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley, 335 U.S. at 47. To meet the requirements of Rule 8, a complaint alleging copyright infringement must state: "[1] which specific original works are the subject of the copyright claim, [2] that plaintiff owns the copyrights in those works, [3] that the copyrights have been registered in accordance with the statute, and [4] by what acts during what time the defendant infringed the copyright." Franklin, 763 F. Supp. at 4; Kelly v. L.L. Cool J., 145 F.R.D. 32, 35 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), aff'd, 23 F.3d 398 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 950 (1994). Plaintiffs have clearly alleged the first three elements. Goldshteyn only claims that they have not adequately alleged the fourth.

Rule 8(a) requires that plaintiffs set out the "particular infringing acts . . . with some specificity." Marvullo v. Gruner & Jahr, 105 F. Supp. 2d 225, 230 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (quoting L.L. Cool J., 145 F.R.D. at 36 n.3) ("Broad, sweeping allegations of infringement do not comply with Rule 8.")). The Copyright Act enumerates the exclusive rights which owners of copyrighted materials possess, including the rights to reproduce and distribute the material. 17 U.S.C. § 106. A complaint that does not allege any acts infringing these enumerated rights does not state a claim for relief. See Brought to Life Music, Inc. v. MCA Records, Inc., No. 02-CV-1164, 2003 WL 296561, *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 11, 2003) (dismissing complaint for failure to allege infringement of protected rights when complaint merely stated that defendant "provided a copy" of copyrighted sound recording to a musician who used it to prepare derivative works). In addition, a complaint must provide more than conclusory allegations of copyright infringement to withstand dismissal.

Marvullo, 105 F. Supp. 2d at 228 (holding allegation that defendant published a copyrighted photograph "beyond the scope . . . of the limited license," without providing additional facts, merely stated "a legal conclusion insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.").

Yet the specificity required of the complaint is not great. A plaintiff need not provide a description of the individual instances or exact times of infringement. Capitol Records, Inc. v. Wings Digital Corp., 218 F. Supp. 2d 280, 284 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). For instance, in Capitol Records the complaint alleging that defendants "manufactured, reproduced, imported and distributed" devices used to reproduce the plaintiff's copyrighted sound recordings was held to successfully state a claim of copyright infringement. Id. at 282, 284. Similarly, in U2 Home Entertainment, Inc. v. Lai Ying Music & Video Trading, Inc., the complaint alleging that defendants engaged in "importation or duplication" of copyrighted motion pictures was held to state "the basis for recovery with sufficient clarity . . . ." No. 04-CV-1233, 2005 WL 1231645, *9 (S.D.N.Y. May 25, 2005) (denying 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss). A plaintiff need only describe how the defendant violated the copyright to state a claim for copyright ...

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