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Romell Caldwell v. Slip-N-Slide Records

July 26, 2011

ROMELL CALDWELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SLIP-N-SLIDE RECORDS, INC.,
ALGERNOD LANIER WASHINGTON, A/K/A PLIES, LONNIE LOVE,
D/B/A UDIGG RECORDS AND UDIGG MUSIC GROUP, AND 101 DISTRIBUTION, LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge:

Opinion and Order

Before the Court is Defendant Slip-N-Slide Records, Inc. ("SNS"), Algernod Lanier Washington ("Plies"), and 101 Distribution LLC's ("101 Distribution") motion to transfer venue to the Southern District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

I.Background

Plaintiff Romell Caldwell ("Caldwell" or "Plaintiff") alleges that in 2001 he created the musical composition and sound recording of a song entitled "Dim Hits," which he later registered with the United States Copyright Office. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10). In 2004, Caldwell gave a copy of "Dim Hits" to a vocalist known as Trina, who has a recording contract with the Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12). In 2008, Plaintiff discovered that the Defendants had allegedly copied "Dim Hits," without his permission, and incorporated it into a song titled "Bond Money." (Id. ¶ 13). Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendants have distributed "Bond Money" on several albums, web sites, and other outlets throughout the United States. (Id. ¶ 14).

None of the parties have demonstrated ties to this forum. Plaintiff is a resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. (Compl. ¶ 3). SNS is a Florida corporation that "promotes, develops, markets and manages recording artists." (Decl. of Ted Lucas ¶ 2). SNS' principal place of business and sole office is in Miami Beach, Florida. (Id. ¶ 3). SNS does not have an office, agent, or employees in New York. (Id. ¶ 4). The song "Bond Money" was purportedly written and recorded in Florida. (Def. Mem. in Supp. of Transfer, at 1). Plies is a Florida resident, and 101 Distribution is a Phoenix, Arizona limited liability company. Defendant Lonnie Love is an Atlanta, Georgia resident. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-7).

The two Florida Defendants, SNS and Plies, along with 101 Distribution, now move to transfer this case to the Southern District of Florida. 101 Distribution joins in Plies' motion but asserts no independent grounds for transfer. Lonnie Love has not been served.

II.Discussion

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). On such a motion, the moving party must make a "clear and convincing" showing that transfer under § 1404(a) is proper. Atl. Recording Corp. v. Project Playlist, Inc., 603 F. Supp. 2d 690, 695 (S.D.N.Y. 2009); see Frame v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., No. 06 Civ. 7058, 2007 WL 2815613, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 24, 2007). "Motions for transfer lie within the broad discretion of the district court and are determined upon notions of convenience and fairness on a case-by-case basis." Frame, 2007 WL 2815613, at *4 (citing In re Cuyahoga Equip. Corp., 980 F.2d 110, 117 (2d Cir. 1992)).

"The inquiry on a motion to transfer venue is two-fold. First, the district court must determine whether the case could have been brought in the proposed transferee district." Id.; see also Herbert v. Elec. Arts, Inc., 325 F. Supp. 2d 282, 285 (S.D.N.Y. 2004); In re Nematron Corp. Secs. Litig., 30 F. Supp. 2d 397, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). If the court determines that the case could have been originally brought in the proposed transferee district, the court must next balance several factors to determine whether the transfer is appropriate. See Frame, 2007 WL 2815613, at *4; Herbert, 325 F. Supp. 2d at 285-86; In re Nematron, 30 F. Supp. 2d at 400. These factors include: (1) convenience of witnesses; (2) convenience of the parties; (3) location of relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the locus of the operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means of the parties; (7) the comparative familiarity of each district with the governing law; (8) the weight accorded to plaintiff's choice of forum; and (9) judicial economy and the interests of justice. See Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. v. CIBA Vision Corp., No. 04 Civ. 7369, 2004 WL 2314424, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 13, 2004); Capitol Records, Inc. v. Kuang DYI Co. of RM, No. 03 Civ. 0520, 2004 WL 405961, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2004); Prudential Secs. Inc. v. Norcom Dev., Inc., No. 97 Civ. 6308, 1998 WL 397889, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. July 16, 1998).

A.Could Original Case Have Been Brought In Florida?

Venue in a federal copyright case lies "in the district in which the defendant or his agent resides or may be found." 28 U.S.C. § 1400(a). "It is well established that a defendant 'may be found' in any district in which he is amenable to personal jurisdiction; thus venue and jurisdiction are co-extensive." Capitol Records, 2004 WL 405961, at *1.

SNS and Plies reside in Florida, and therefore are subject to personal jurisdiction there. 101 Distribution, an Arizona corporation, may have conducted business in Florida, and therefore likely has sufficient connection to the forum. Plaintiff does not challenge the fact that this matter could have originally been brought in the Southern District of Florida.

B.Factor Test

When weighing all the factors "[t]here is no rigid formula" and "no single one of them is determinative." Chiste v. Hotels.com L.P., 756 F. Supp. 2d 382, 400 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal citation omitted). However, the "weight accorded a plaintiff's forum choice affects the burden that a ...


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