United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS  AND MOTION TO
DEEM PLAINTIFF A VEXATIOUS LITIGANT 
D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
one in a series of actions brought by pro se Plaintiff Rodney
Herachio Dixon against Prince Rogers Nelson
(“Prince”), entities related to Prince, and
successors-in-interest to Prince, claiming that he authored
all of Prince's songs and is owed a billion or more
dollars under a licensing agreement. Before the Court are
Defendants NPG Music Publishing, LLC (“NPG
Publishing”), NPG Records Inc. (“NPG
Records”), and Comerica Bank and Trust's
“Defendants”) motions to dismiss and to deem
Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (ECF Nos. 30, 39.) For the
following reasons, the Court GRANTS both motions.
is a self-described songwriter and “producer of musical
compositions.” (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”)
¶ 1, ECF No. 26.) According to Plaintiff, he authored or
jointly authored all or substantially all of Prince's
songs, including songs on Prince's popular Purple Rain,
Around the World in Day, Sign O' The Times, and
Emancipation albums. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 13, 65.)
Plaintiff alleges that he initially gave Prince a license to
his works “for three (3) years beginning in the year
1982” in exchange for one million dollars at a later
date. (Id. ¶ 33.) He then extended that license
for nine years in exchange for one billion dollars payable in
1994. (Id.) In 1995, Plaintiff claims that he
extended the license for the remainder of Prince's life,
receiving one dollar as consideration for the extension from
Prince's lawyer Jerry Edelstein. (Id.) The
license terminated upon Prince's death on April 21, 2016.
(Id.) This license prohibited “anyone other
than Prince from usage” of Plaintiff's songs.
(Id. ¶ 76.)
April 4, 2014, Prince transferred the publishing rights to
all or substantially all of his songs (965 songs) to NPG
Publishing, of which he was the member-manager.
(Id., Ex. I.) This transfer of rights was recorded
with the United States Copyright Office on February 4, 2016.
(Id.) Since NPG Publishing took
“possession” of the songs, Defendants have
allegedly exploited Plaintiff's songs by copying them,
distributing them, and selling them “to consumers
around the world” without Plaintiff's permission.
(Id. ¶ 61.)
the past twenty-three years, Plaintiff has filed a number of
actions seeking to recover the billion dollars he is
allegedly owed under the licensing agreement. Plaintiff filed
the first such action in California Superior Court for the
County of Los Angeles on September 23, 1994, against Warner
Brothers Records and Prince. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. G, ECF No.
30-2.) He alleged two causes of action in the
complaint: (1) fraudulent transfer, and (2) conspiracy.
(Id. ¶¶ 1-16.) The complaint was largely
nonsensical, referring to Plaintiff as the Messiah,
discussing the twenty-eight signers of the Declaration of
Independence, and mentioning an “educational
system” known as “The Game.” (See
e.g., id. at 266, 268-269.) On February 6,
1995, the court dismissed Warner Brothers Records after its
successful demurrer and Plaintiff's subsequent failure to
amend the complaint. (Id., Ex. I.) The case could
not proceed against Prince because he had not been properly
served. (See id., Ex. H at 275.)
March 24, 1995, Plaintiff filed a nearly identical action
against Prince in California Superior Court for the County of
San Bernardino. (See id., Exs. K, L.) However,
Plaintiff again failed to properly serve Prince.
(Id., Ex. K.) Accordingly, the case was dismissed
without prejudice on November 29, 1995. (Id.)
April 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a petition in Carver County
District Court (a Minnesota state court) against Prince's
estate asserting ownership of “all” of
Prince's songs and seeking the one billion dollars owed
under the licensing agreement. (Id., Ex. A at 7, 12.)
Shortly thereafter, The Bremer Trust filed a motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's petition. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 16, ECF No.
39-2.) The Carver County court found that Plaintiff
“failed to establish that he ever had a [licensing
agreement] with [Prince].” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. D at
251, ECF No. 30-2.) Specifically, the court found that there
were no allegations to corroborate the existence of such a
licensing agreement or to suggest that there had been
adequate consideration for the agreement. (Id.)
Plaintiff subsequently appealed the court's decision.
(Order, ECF No. 35). On April 19, 2017, the Minnesota Court
of Appeals affirmed the Carver County court's decision
finding that Plaintiff failed to “sufficiently allege
an implied-in-fact contract claim.” (Id.)
the same time, on January 19, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to
revive the long dormant 1994 Superior Court proceeding
against Prince by substituting in The Bremer Trust.
(Tavernier Decl., Ex. H at 275, ECF No. 30-2.) However, the
court granted The Bremer Trust's motion to dismiss for
failure to prosecute, finding that Plaintiff had not timely
served Prince with the complaint. (Id. at 275-276.)
A February 7, 2017 order dismissed the action in its
entirety. (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently appealed that
order. (See Vexatious Lit. Mot. at 13 n.3, ECF No.
filed this action on February 24, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) On April
5, 2017, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint alleging:
(1) copyright infringement; (2) breach of contract; and (3)
intentional interference with contractual relations. (FAC
¶¶ 64-87.) On April 19, 2017, Defendants filed the
pending motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 30.) On April 27, 2017,
Defendants filed the pending motion to deem Plaintiff a
vexatious litigant. (ECF No. 39.) Both motions are now fully
briefed and ready for decision. (ECF Nos. 36, 42, 44,
may dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for lack of a cognizable legal theory or
insufficient facts pleaded to support an otherwise cognizable
legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police
Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To survive
a motion to dismiss, a complaint need only satisfy the
minimal notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)-a short
and plain statement of the claim. Porter v. Jones,
319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). The factual
“allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, the
complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).
determination of whether a complaint satisfies the
plausibility standard is a “context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. A
court is generally limited to the pleadings and must construe
all “factual allegations set forth in the complaint . .
. as true and . . . in the light most favorable” to the
plaintiff. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668,
688 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). But a
court need not blindly accept conclusory allegations,
unwarranted deductions of fact, and unreasonable inferences.
Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988
(9th Cir. 2001).
a court should freely give leave to amend a complaint that
has been dismissed, even if not requested by the party.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Lopez v. Smith,
203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). However, a
court may deny leave to amend when it “determines that
the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged
pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.”
Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co.,
806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).
Motion to Dismiss
plaintiff may not bring an action for infringement unless
he . . . has . . . registered the [relevant] work
with the U.S. Copyright Office.” Jim Marshall
Photography, LLC v. John Varvatos of Cal., No.
C-11-06702 DMR, 2013 WL 3339048, at *5 (N.D. Cal. June 28,
2013) (citing 17 U.S.C. § 411(a)) (emphasis added);
see also Exist, Inc. v. Shoreline Wear, Inc., No.
LACV1408358JAKRZX, 2015 WL 12781409, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Mar.
17, 2015) (citing Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Muchnick,
559 U.S. 154, 158 (2010)). In other words, registration is a
“precondition to suit” for copyright
infringement. Epikhin v. Game Insight N. Am., 145
F.Supp.3d 896, 902 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (citing Reed
Elsevier, 559 U.S. at 166).
argue that Plaintiff has not established registration of the
relevant works. (Mot. 13-14, ECF No. 30-1.) In an attempt to
establish the requisite registration, Plaintiff has attached
several documents from the United States Copyright Office to
his complaint. One of these documents is a registration for
“Rameses XII; Merc [S]upertext; a handy manual for the
serious student of spirituality” by Rameses America
Mercury. (FAC, Ex. K.) However, this registration does not
reference any of the works at issue in this action. See
Kema, Inc. v. Koperwhats, No. C09-1587MMC, 2010 WL
726640, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 1, 2010) (registration must
pertain to the work(s) in question).
other Copyright Office documents Plaintiff has attached to
the complaint relate to the February 4, 2016 recordation of
an April 4, 2014 transfer of rights for the relevant works
from Prince to NPG Publishing. (See FAC, Exs. H, I.)
Plaintiff alleges that this recordation somehow caused all
965 of the transferred works to become “part of [the]
Merc Supertext” referenced in the previous paragraph.
(Id. ¶¶ 32, 60.) However, this notion is
entirely unsupported by the documents themselves.
The recordation documents make no reference to Plaintiff,
Plaintiff's alias, or the Merc Supertext. (Id.,
Ex. H at 62, Ex. I at 65-67.) Likewise, the “Exclusive