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Ronnie Brand A/K/A Ron B v. Rmm

April 18, 2011

RONNIE BRAND A/K/A RON B., PLAINTIFF,
v.
RMM, UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, SONY & SERGIO GEORGE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Andrew J. Peck, United States Magistrate Judge:

OPINION AND ORDER

Pro se plaintiff Ronnie Brand brings this action alleging that defendants RMM Records & Video Corp. ("RMM"), Universal Music Group ("Universal"), Sony Discos Inc. and Sergio George*fn1 infringed the copyright to his rap vocals by adding them to a song by recording artist Tito Nieves. (Dkt. No. 2: Compl. ¶¶ III, V.)

Presently before the Court is defendant Universal's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 31: Notice of Motion; see also Dkt. No. 32: Universal Br.; Dkt. No. 33: Oates Aff.; Dkt. No. 36: Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt.)*fn2 Brand has not responded to the motion and his time to do so has elapsed. (See 3/11/11 Order.) The parties have consented to decision of this case by a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. No. 29: § 636(c) Consent.)

For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion, treated as a summary judgment motion, is GRANTED.

FACTS

In 1991, defendant record producer Sergio George solicited Brand to write and record rap lyrics for a song by Tito Nieves. (Dkt. No. 2: Compl. ¶ III; Dkt. No. 36: Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 1-2.) Brand recorded rap vocals that were included in Nieves' song "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More Baby" ("Nieves' Song"), a rendition of a song written and previously recorded by Barry White. (Compl. ¶ III; Dkt. No. 33: Oates Aff. Ex. D: Dejame Vivir CD case cover & liner notes; Oates Aff. Ex. E: I Like It Like That liner notes; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-5.) George asked Brand to sign certain documents, but Brand refused. (Compl. ¶ III; Dkt. No. 24: Brand 12/21/10 Ltr. to Judge Marrero at 1.) George and Brand never discussed what would happen with Nieves' Song, and Brand was not compensated for his work. (Compl. ¶ III; Brand 12/21/10 Ltr. to Judge Marrero.)

Nieves' Song was released on two Tito Nieves albums, Dejame Vivir*fn3 and I Like It Like That. (Compl. ¶ III; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 6.) Dejame Vivir was first published on July 15, 1991, and a September 26, 1991 United States Copyright Office registration certificate for the sound recording lists RMM as the sole copyright claimant. (Oates Aff. ¶ 3 & Ex. B: Dejame Vivir Certificate of Registration; see also Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 9.) "© 1991 RMM RECORDS & VIDEO CORP." is printed on the back cover of the compact disc case for Dejame Vivir. (Oates Aff. Ex. D: Dejame Vivir Back Cover; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 16.)

I Like It Like That was first published on May 13, 1997, and an August 12, 1997 United States Copyright Office registration certificate for the sound recording lists RMM as the sole copyright claimant. (Oates Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. C: I Like It Like That Certificate of Registration; see also Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 10.) "h & © 1997 RMM RECORDS & VIDEO CORP." is printed on the compact disc and the back cover of the CD case for I Like It Like That. (Oates Aff. Ex. E: I Like It Like That CD & CD Case; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 17.)

On April 31, 2001, RMM sold all of its assets to Universal. (Oates Aff. ¶ 2 & Ex. A: 4/30/01 Asset Purchase Agreement; see also Oates Aff. ¶ 8 & Ex. G: Bill of Sale between Universal & RMM; Oates Aff. ¶ 9 & Ex. H: 7/13/01 Bankr. Ct. Order; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 8.)

On March 5, 1999, Brand obtained a United States Copyright Office sound recording registration certificate for a work described as "words, melody of song - rap lyrics" titled "'I'm Gonna Love You.'" (Dkt. No. 24: Brand 12/21/10 Ltr. to Judge Marrero Ex. 4: Brand Certificate of Registration; see Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 18.)

Brand's 2004 Correspondence with Universal

On May 13, 2004, Brand's former counsel, Jack L. Most, wrote a letter to Universal concerning Brand's "copyright ownership of . . . a musical work, including melody and lyrics, entitled I'M GONNA LOVE YOU." (Dkt. No. 24: Brand 12/21/10 Ltr. to Judge Marrero Ex. 1: Universal 5/20/04 Ltr. & Ex. 2: Most 5/24/04 Ltr.; see also Dkt. No. 36: Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.) On May 24, 2004, Most sent Universal Brand's copyright registration number and the names of the two Tito Nieves albums with Nieves' Song, in order to "assist [Universal] in [its] evaluation of the claim of Mr. Brand for compensation accruing from the use and broadcast of his copyrighted song." (Most 5/24/04 Ltr.; see also Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.)

In response, Universal referred Brand's counsel to Warner/Chappell because the song had been "paid over" to them. (Brand 12/21/10 Ltr. to Judge Marrero Ex. 3: Most 6/22/04 Ltr. to Brand; Universal Rule 56.1 Stmt. ΒΆ 20.) Warner/Chappell told Brand's counsel that it had no record of any contract or ...


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