IP Law Daily Copyright claims against ‘Latin Justin Beiber’ rejected as conclusory
Thursday, March 3, 2016

Copyright claims against ‘Latin Justin Beiber’ rejected as conclusory

By Mark Engstrom, J.D.

Promoters of Mexican singer Luis Coronel—the “Latin Justin Bieber”—could not pursue direct, contributory, or vicarious infringement claims against Coronel and other defendants because the plaintiffs’ complaint provided little more than conclusory allegations of copyright infringement, the federal district court in Los Angeles has ruled (Ledesma v. Corral, March 2, 2016, Wright II, O.). Because the plaintiffs failed to allege sufficient facts to support a copyright claim under any infringement theory, the court granted, with prejudice, the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs Manuel Ledesma and Louis Barraza sued Luis Coronel, Arturo Corral, Empire Productions, and Worldwide Empire productions for copyright infringement and other unlawful activity. According to their complaint, Ledesma and Barraza had aggressively promoted Coronel’s music career, but were not paid for work—such as production work and song writing—that Ledesma had provided under a partnership agreement with defendant Auturo Corral, the CEO of defendant Empire Productions.

The plaintiffs alleged that Ledesma owned copyright registrations for two songs that Coronel had recorded, and that Corral and Empire had used those songs, without Ledesma’s consent, despite Corral’s knowledge of the registrations. The defendants argued that: (1) Ledesma had authorized the use of those songs before their copyrights were registered and (2) an implied license authorized the continued use of the songs.

Direct infringement. Because Ledesma proffered valid registrations for the compositions at issue, the defendants sufficiently alleged the ownership of a valid copyright. They failed, however, to allege the unauthorized use of the registered works. More specifically, they failed to allege sufficient facts to support their allegations of unauthorized use.

According to the court, the plaintiffs simply alleged that Coronel’s unauthorized performance of Ledesma’s compositions in sound recordings constituted direct infringement. That allegation, however, simply offered “legalese in lieu of offering supporting facts.” Because the factual allegations were not specific enough to raise the plaintiff’s right to relief above the level of speculation, their claim for direct infringement was rejected.

Contributory infringement. The plaintiffs’ claim for contributory infringement also lacked factual support. According to the court, the plaintiffs littered “sparse and conclusory” allegations of contributory infringement throughout their complaint, but failed to provide factual support those allegations.

The court noted that the plaintiffs had proffered allegations such as: “Corral, through Empire, induced and encouraged Coronel to commit infringing acts” and “Corral … contributed to the infringement by inducing third parties to commit infringing acts, such as licensing the recordings embodying Compositions.” Because those “paltry” allegations did not provide anything more than a speculative right to relief, the contributory infringement claims could not survive the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Vicarious infringement. The plaintiffs alleged that Corral, as the CEO and sole officer of Empire, had the exclusive power and ability to control Empire’s business activities and artists, including Coronel. However, the rest of their allegations of vicarious infringement were conclusory.

According to the court, the plaintiffs merely stated that “Corral chose not to exercise his ability to stop or limit the infringement, and has personally profited from the infringement and continues to do so”; no facts were proffered to support those assertions.

For those reasons, the court found that the plaintiffs’ allegations of vicarious infringement were insufficient to state a valid claim for relief.

The case is No. 2:15-cv-04266-ODW-GJS.

Attorneys: Lincoln D. Bandlow (Fox Rothschild LLP) and Gerald B. Weiner (Probstein & Weiner) for Manuel Ledesma. Robert Edward Allen (McKool, Smith, Hennigan, PC) for Arturo Corral, Luis Coronel, and Empire Productions Inc.

Companies: Empire Productions, Inc.; Worldwide Empire Productions, LLC

MainStory: TopStory Copyright CaliforniaNews

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