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Rock River Communications, Inc v. Universal Music Group

August 9, 2011

ROCK RIVER COMMUNICATIONS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP, INC., ET AL.; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christina A. Snyder United States District Judge

JS-6

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PLAINTIFF'S REMAINING CLAIM

I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Rock River Communications, Inc. is a producer, seller, and distributor of music records. Fourth Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶ 4. In 2006, plaintiff created certain "remixed" recordings of reggae music originally recorded by Bob Marley and the Wailers between 1969 and 1972 ("the Recordings"). FAC ¶ 11. Plaintiff acquired licenses for the Recordings from a company called San Juan Music ("San Juan"). FAC ¶ 13. San Juan allegedly possessed a non-exclusive license for the Recordings that it had acquired from Lee Perry, the original producer of the Recordings. FAC ¶ 12. Defendant Universal Music Group, Inc., is the owner of Island Records. FAC ¶ 10. Bob Marley recorded for Island Records between 1973 and his death in 1981, and defendant, through Island Records, controls the rights to a large percentage of Marley's recordings Id. Defendant allegedly acquired a non-exclusive interest in the Recordings through its acquisition of Polygram Group Canada and Sanctuary Records, both of which allegedly possessed non-exclusive rights to the Recordings. FAC ¶¶ 15, 16. Defendant also acquired an allegedly exclusive interest in the Recordings pursuant to a license from a company known as JAD.*fn1 FAC ¶ 17. In October 2007, defendant sent "cease and desist" letters to several distributors of plaintiff's remixed recordings, including some internet-based distributors, asserting that it had exclusive rights to the Recordings and threatening copyright infringement actions. FAC ¶ 28. Due to these threats, the distributors stopped distributing plaintiff's recordings. FAC ¶ 30.

On January 31, 2008, plaintiff filed a complaint claiming that defendant's "cease and desist" letters violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act and constituted the tort of intentional interference with prospective business advantage. After defendant filed a motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed its first amended complaint. On August 25, 2008, this Court granted in part and denied in part defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint with leave to amend. On September 15, 2008, plaintiff filed its second amended complaint. On December 22, 2008, the Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss with leave to amend. The Court further granted plaintiff 60 days within which to conduct discovery.

On April 2, 2009, plaintiff filed its third amended complaint alleging claims against defendant for (1) attempting to monopolize the reggae genre of sound recordings in the United States in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2; (2) restraining trade and threatening to create a monopoly in the reggae genre sound recordings market in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18; (3) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; and (4) knowingly and materially misrepresenting that plaintiff's album infringed defendant's copyright, in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), 17 U.S.C. § 512(f).

On October 16, 2009, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint, and on November 16, 2009, the Court granted plaintiff's motion. Thereafter plaintiff filed its fourth amended complaint against defendants UMG Inc., UMG Recordings, and UMGI, alleging claims for (1) attempting to monopolize the reggae genre of sound recordings in the United States in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2; (2) restraining trade and threatening to create a monopoly in the reggae genre sound recordings market in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18; (3) intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; and (4) knowingly and materially misrepresenting that plaintiff's album infringed defendants' copyright, in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"), 17 U.S.C. § 512(f).

On April 27, 2011, the Court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiff's first, second, and fourth claims, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's third claim. In the April 27, 2011 order, the Court also denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment with respect to defendants' defenses.

On June 13, 2011, the Court held a hearing regarding the parties' respective motions in limine in anticipation of trial. In light of the Court's tentative ruling on defendants' motions in limine, defendants requested leave to file an additional summary judgment motion on plaintiff's remaining claim. With leave of Court, they filed the instant motion on June 15, 2011. On June 20, 2011, plaintiff filed an opposition to defendants' motion. On June 23, 2011, defendants filed a reply in support of their motion; a corrected version of the reply brief was filed on June 24, 2011. Having carefully considered the parties' arguments, the Court finds and concludes as follows.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and "the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party has the initial burden of identifying relevant portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a fact or facts necessary for one or more essential elements of each cause of action upon which the moving party seeks judgment. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

If the moving party has sustained its burden, the nonmoving party must then identify specific facts, drawn from materials on file, that demonstrate that there is a dispute as to material facts on the elements that the moving party has contested. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The nonmoving party must not simply rely on the pleadings and must do more than make "conclusory allegations [in] an affidavit." Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Summary judgment must be granted for the moving party if the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322; see also Abromson v. Am. Pac. Corp., 114 F.3d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1997).

In light of the facts presented by the nonmoving party, along with any undisputed facts, the Court must decide whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 & n.3 (9th Cir. 1987). When deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted); Valley Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. A.E. Rouse & Co., 121 F.3d 1332, 1335 (9th Cir. 1997). Summary judgment ...


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