Range Road Music v. East Coast Foods

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 02-16-2012
  • Case #: 10-55800
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Paez for the Court; Circuit Judge Pregerson and District Judge J. Jones
  • Full Text Opinion

Observation of public performance of copyrighted songs is within the acceptable purview of lay opinion and will alone suffice as evidence of copyright infringement because there need not be a showing of "'substantial similarity; between the publicly performed compositions and the copyrighted works" where such evidence is available to show "that the public performances entailed direct copying."

The district court granted summary judgment to Range Road Music "for... copyright infringement." East Coast Foods appeals, claiming that the plaintiff's complaint was insufficient and that plaintiff lacked sufficient evidence of infringement. Hudson appeals his vicarious liability. The Ninth Circuit found that plaintiff's complaint was sufficient because "it contained an adequate statement of the claim... it alleged that copyrighted musical compositions were publicly performed at the Long Beach Roscoe's and pleaded sufficient facts to raise a plausible inference that East Coast and Hudson exercised control over and financially benefited from the performance venue." Further, Range Road's investigator provided sufficient evidence of the songs performed, because such opinion does not require expert qualifications. His "direct observation of the infringing act" also precluded the need for a showing of "'substantial similarity' between the publicly performed compositions and the copyrighted works" because "substantial similarity" is merely "a doctrine that helps courts adjudicate whether copying of the 'constituent elements of the work that are the original' actually occurred when an allegedly infringing work appropriates elements of an original without reproducing it in toto." Finally, because Hudson "exercise[d] direct control over [the] direct infringer when he ha[d] both a legal right to stop or limit the directly infringing conduct, as well as the practical ability to do so," vicarious liability was appropriate. AFFIRMED.

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