United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
PITMAN United States Magistrate Judge.
to resolve a dispute between the parties concerning
defendants' objections and responses to 1, 901 requests
for admissions ("RFAs") served by plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs claim that the responses are deficient and seek an
Order either directing defendants to serve amended responses
or deeming the requests admitted (Pls.1 Letter to the
Undersigned, dated May 22, 2016 (D.I. 168) ("Pls."
Motion to Compel"); see also Pls.' Reply
Letter to the Undersigned, dated June 9, 2017 (D.I. 179)
("Pls.1 Reply")). Defendants argue that these RFAs
are improper and that, in any event, the responses they
provided satisfy their obligations under Fed.R.Civ.P. 36
(Defs.' Letter to the Undersigned, dated June 2, 2017
(D.I. 176) ("Defs.1 Opp.")).
facts underlying this action have been set forth in previous
decisions, familiarity with which are assumed. See,
e.g.., Abkco Music, Inc. v. William Sagan, Norton
LLC, 15 Civ. 4025 (ER), 2016 WL 2642224 at *1 (S.D.N.Y.
May 6, 2016) (Ramos, D.J.). Plaintiffs allege that they own
or control the copyrights to hundreds of iconic musical
compositions that span composers from Rogers &
Hammerstein and Hoagy Carmichael to Mick Jagger and Billy Joe
Armstrong. Plaintiffs further allege that defendants acquired
audio-visual recordings of concerts at which the compositions
owned or controlled by plaintiffs were performed and that
defendants are violating plaintiffs' rights by operating
websites that offer the public the opportunity to stream or
download those recordings for a fee and offer for sale newly
manufactured CDs, DVDs and vinyl records containing the
performances. Defendants claim to have acquired the rights to
reproduce these recordings, which plaintiffs dispute.
present dispute arises out 1, 901 RFAs plaintiffs served on
defendants concerning plaintiffs' ownership of the
copyrighted works at issue in this case. Although the parties
have not submitted all the RFAs in connection with this
motion, based on the samples they have submitted it appears
that for each work, plaintiffs have posed one or more RFAs
seeking admissions regarding the corresponding copyright
registration, songwriter agreement or subsequent transfer
document. Each RFA also identifies the bates-number of the
referenced document in plaintiffs' document production.
RFAs can be divided into two categories, namely, those
related to plaintiffs' copyright registrations with the
United States Copyright Office and those related to
plaintiff's acquisition of ownership through an
assignment or transfer of a copyright
registration. Each RFA seeks the defendants'
admission that the work was registered or
transferred/assigned as stated in the referenced document.
Thus, in substance, plaintiffs seek defendants'
admissions as to the authenticity and accuracy of each
document. Plaintiffs have indicated that the purpose of the
RFAs is to invite defendants to make "specific
challenges to Plaintiffs' chain of title" (Pi. Reply
at 3). Defendants' responses to each of the RFAs at issue
are identical -- in addition to interposing various
objections, defendants state that, despite reasonable
inquiry, they lack the knowledge necessary to admit or deny
of the two categories of RFAs and defendants' responses
are as follows:
Request No. 1
Admit that the musical composition "Besame Mucho"
was registered in the U.S. Copyright Office as registration
number E for 65106 in the name of Promotura Hispano Americana
de Musica S.A. on or about June 5, 1941 and was first
published on May 2, 1941 as reflected on the registration
certificate produced as PLAINTIFFS0002148 .
Defendants object to this Request as overly broad and unduly
burdensome. Defendants further object to this Request to the
extent that it is vague, ambiguous and compound. Defendants
further object to this Request to the extent that it asks
Defendants to verify the authenticity of documents produced
by Plaintiffs in this action, which Defendants are unable to
do. Defendants further object on the grounds that this
Request seeks to impermissibly shift the burden of
demonstrating ownership of the copyrights at issue from
Plaintiffs to Defendants. Defendants further object to the
extent that this Request calls for legal conclusions.
Defendants further object to the extent the information is
more readily available to Plaintiffs. Defendants further
object to the extent that the document speaks for itself.
Subject to and without waiving the foregoing objections,
Defendants respond as follows:
Defendants lack sufficient information to admit or deny this
Request. Although Defendants have made reasonable inquiry,
the document in question was produced by Plaintiffs, and
Defendants have neither created nor been involved with the
document in any way. Defendants therefore are unable to
authenticate the document in question and, as a result, are