United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, DENYING IN PART,
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS 
D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Syl Johnson (“Johnson”) brings several claims
against Defendant UMG Recordings, Inc. (“UMG”)
involving copyright infringement. Plaintiff claims Defendant
UMG reproduced, distributed, and licensed a sampled portion
of Plaintiff's music. (See Compl. ¶¶1,
ECF No. 1.)
moves to dismiss on the following grounds: (1)
Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations; and (2) Defendant's alleged copying is not
actionable. (See generally Mot. to Dismiss Compl.
(“Mot.”), ECF No. 14.)
reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS, IN
PART and DENIES, IN PA RT,
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.
Johnson, doing business as Twinight Records, Inc., produces,
manufactures, distributes, and sells sound recordings.
(Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8.) In 1968, Plaintiff recorded
vocals of himself in a track titled “I Feel An
Urge” (the “Recording”). (Compl.
¶¶ 1.) In the Recording, a segment contains
Plaintiff's distinctive vocal “Ohh” followed
by a fast-paced drum roll, instrumental guitar, high note on
a saxophone, and Plaintiff singing
“Yeah.” (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 15.) In 1991,
Defendant UMG reproduced, distributed, and licensed a portion
of the Recording on various tracks titled “Know the
Ledge, ” “Juice, ” and “Juice (Know
the Ledge).” (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 16.) Plaintiff
alleges that the Recording “comprises twenty-five
percent of these tracks.” (Compl. ¶ 16.) Defendant
allegedly used the tracks in theatrical and television
movies, greatest hits compilations, music videos, video
games, commercials, and third-party licenses all over the
world. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff discovered that the
Recording was sampled when Matthew Clifford, a former disc
jockey, informed him that he “recognized
Plaintiff's voice” on Defendant's recordings.
(Compl. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff had not authorized Defendant to
reproduce, manufacture, distribute, or license a sample
portion of the Recording. (Compl. ¶ 2.)
has filed several actions based on these facts in several
venues. For instance, he filed an action on May 4, 2015 in
the Northern District of Illinois and another one on December
12, 2017 in the Middle District of Tennessee. (Compl. ¶
18.) On March 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed the operative
Complaint in the Central District of California alleging
three claims for relief under: (1) Cal. Civ. Code § 980
et seq.; (2) Cal. Bus. & Prof Code § 17200
et seq.; and (3) Cal. Civ. Code § 3344.
(See generally Compl.) On June 3, 2019, Defendant
filed a motion to dismiss (“Motion”).
may dismiss a complaint under Rule 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 dismissal motion, 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,
679 (9th Cir. 2001). 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).
Statute of Limitations
moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims alleging that they
are barred by the statute of limitations. Misappropriation
claims under Cal. Civ. Code. § 3344 are subject to a
two-year limitation. Yeager v. Bowlin, 693 F.3d
1076, 1081 (9th Cir. 2012) (stating that claims under Cal.
Civ.Code § 3344 are subject to a two-year statute of
limitations). Claims under UCL are subject to a four-year
limitation. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17208
(“[a]ny action to enforce [the UCL] shall be commenced
within four years after the cause of action accrued.”)
Claims under Cal. Civ. Code § 980(a)(2) are subject to a
three-year limitations periods. UMG Recordings, Inc. v.
Glob. Eagle Entm't, Inc., No. CV 14-3466-GW(JPRX),
2016 WL 3457179, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 20, 2016) (citing 17
U.S.C. § 507(b); Cal. Civ. Code § 338(a);
Bridge Publications, Inc. v. Vien, 827 F.Supp. 629,
634 (S.D. Cal. 1993) (applying three-year statute per §
338(a) to “copyright claims based on Cal. Civ. Code
asserts that the first instance of infringement occurred in
1991, yet he is entitled to relief for every infringing act
since then because Defendant continues to sell recordings
with Plaintiff's unlicensed Recording and each sale
constitutes a new instance of infringement. (Opp'n to Mot
(“Opp'n”) 13, ECF No. 16.) However, an
individual cannot bring copyright claims beyond the statute
of limitations simply because instances of copyright
infringement continue to occur within the statutory period.
Roley v. New World Pictures, Ltd., 19 F.3d 479, 481
(9th Cir. 1994). Acts that accrued within the three years
preceding the filing of suit may be brought. Id.
(holding that “in a case of continuing copyright
infringements, an action may be brought for all acts that
accrued within the three years preceding the filing of
suit.”) Furthermore, under California law, the
continuing violation doctrine does not apply to toll the
statute of limitations periods for claims of
misappropriation, and violation of the UCL unless necessary
for series of harms to ...