Copyright ownership check wins reversal

Pamela Chestek writes in Property, Intangible :

"…after seven years of litigation, partial summary judgment, and an award against the defendant for $100,000, the court vacated it all because, a year after the award, the defendant’s new lawyer noticed the plaintiff didn’t actually own the copyrights…"

The case is EMI Enter. World, Inc. v. Karen Records, Inc. Here is the full text. It’s a simple case of no ownership, no standing, and no standing, no jurisdiction.

Background: Plaintiff EMI Entertainment World Inc. (“EMI” or  “Plaintiff”) is a music publisher that purported to own or control copyrights to four musical compositions that Defendants  Karen Records, Inc. and Karen Publishing Inc.—owned by individual defendants Isabel Rodriguez and husband Bienvenido  Rodriguez—used on records they released between 1999 and 2001.

As early as 1998, EMI initiated several legal actions against defendants for copyright infringement based on unpaid royalties. IN 2005 EMI filed the suit in question. In 2011, the Court found willful copyright infringement, and granted plaintiff a judgment of $100,000.

In August of 2012, under the direction of a new attorney, the defendants moved to set aside the judgment on the grounds that newly discovered evidence shows that plaintiff has no direct ownership interest in the copyrights over which it has sued because those rights are owned by subsidiaries of the plaintiff, subsidiaries who were never joined to the action.

The court reasoned that there was, indeed, lack of standing, and lack of standing of the party bringing suit would result in a lack of jurisdiction of the Court to hear the matter and would require a dismissal of the action. The award was vacated.