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Massacre v. Davies

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

August 18, 2014

BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE, a doing business as designation for ANTON NEWCOMBE, an individual, Plaintiff and Counterdefendant,
v.
JEFFREY DAVIES, an individual, Defendant and Counterclaimant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS OR STRIKE ANSWER AND COUNTERCLAIMS RE: DKT. NO. 49

NATHANAEL M. COUSINS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Newcombe moves to dismiss or strike portions of defendant Davies' answer to the first amended complaint and counterclaims. The Court finds that Davies' state law claims for misappropriation, conversion, and an accounting are preempted and thus dismisses those claims with leave to amend to seek relief under the Copyright Act. The Court finds that the state law claims for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and conspiracy all suffer from pleading defects and therefore dismisses those claims with leave to amend. The Court finds that the statutory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees that Davies seeks as part of his copyright infringement claim are barred as a matter of law and therefore dismisses those prayers for relief with prejudice. Finally, the Court grants the motion to strike the blanket denials and references to multiple counterdefendants in Davies' answer.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

Plaintiff and counterdefendant Anton Newcombe alleges that he began the band Brian Jonestown Massacre over twenty-five years ago, and that the band has had "a revolving cast of musicians over the years, numbering 40 or more." Dkt. No. 29 at ¶ 1. Defendant and counterclaimant Jeffrey Davies alleges that he participated in the band as a songwriter, guitar player, and recording artist from the early 1990s until around 2002, when "he had a falling out with the lead singer of the band, " Newcombe. Dkt. No. 45 at ¶ 8.

Newcombe's amended complaint alleges that Davies is a co-author with a 50% ownership interest in the Brian Jonestown Massacre musical works "Straight Up and Down, " "Monster, " and "Straight Up and Down II." Dkt. No. 29 at ¶¶ 5, 17. But Newcombe denies that Davies is a co-author or has any ownership interest in any other Brian Jonestown Massacre works. Id. at ¶ 17.

Davies' counterclaims, on the other hand, allege that Davies co-authored three other Brian Jonestown Massacre musical compositions, in addition to the three compositions that Newcombe concedes were co-authored by Davies. Dkt. No. 45 at ¶¶ 9, 24. Davies also alleges that he has an "ownership interest in the copyrights and royalties to [several] sounds recordings" on which he performed, but that Newcombe "expressly repudiated" Davies' rights to those copyrights in July or August of 2013. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 19. Davies also alleges that he was the sole author or solely owns two other Brian Jonestown Massacre compositions. Id. at ¶¶ 10, 23.

B. Procedural History

Newcombe filed this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on August 28, 2013. Dkt. No. 1. The Court dismissed the complaint with leave to amend for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction on February 20, 2014. Dkt. No. 28. Newcombe filed his first amended complaint on February 24, 2014. Dkt. No. 29. On March 10, 2014 Davies filed a motion to dismiss or strike and a motion to change venue. Dkt. Nos. 30, 31. The Court denied both motions. Dkt. No. 42.

Davies filed his answer to the first amended complaint and counterclaims on May 27, 2014. Dkt. No. 45. Davies brings counterclaims for conversion and misappropriation, accounting, copyright infringement, fraud and deceit, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. Id.

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a) & (b). See Dkt. No. 42. Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. Dkt. Nos. 9, 12.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Strike

A court may, on its own or upon a motion, "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). The purpose of Rule 12(f) "is to avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues by dispensing with those issues prior to trial." Sidney-Vinstein v. A.H. Robins Co., 697 F.2d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 1983). The decision to strike all or part of a pleading is within the discretion of the district court. Nurse v. United States, 228 F.3d 996, 1000 (9th Cir. ...


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