106 F.Supp.3d 581 (E.D.Pa. 2015), C. A. 14-3089, Skidmore v. Zeppelin

Docket Nº:Civil Action 14-3089
Citation:106 F.Supp.3d 581, 114 U.S.P.Q.2d 1728
Opinion Judge:Juan R. Sánchez, J.
Party Name:MICHAEL SKIDMORE AS TRUSTEE FOR THE RANDY CRAIG WOLFE TRUST v. LED ZEPPELIN, et al
Attorney:Civil Action No. 14-3089 For MICHAEL SKIDMORE, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE RANDY CRAIG WOLFE TRUST, Plaintiff: FRANCIS MALOFIY, LEAD ATTORNEY, Francis Alexander, LLC, Media, PA. For LED ZEPPELIN, Defendant: MICHAEL EIDEL, LEAD ATTORNEY, FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP, WARRINGTON, PA. For JAMES PATRICK PAGE, ROBERT AN...
Case Date:May 06, 2015
Court:United States District Courts, 3th Circuit, Western District of Pennsylvania
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 581

106 F.Supp.3d 581 (E.D.Pa. 2015)

114 U.S.P.Q.2d 1728

MICHAEL SKIDMORE AS TRUSTEE FOR THE RANDY CRAIG WOLFE TRUST

v.

LED ZEPPELIN, et al

Civil Action No. 14-3089

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 6, 2015

Page 582

For MICHAEL SKIDMORE, AS TRUSTEE FOR THE RANDY CRAIG WOLFE TRUST, Plaintiff: FRANCIS MALOFIY, LEAD ATTORNEY, Francis Alexander, LLC, Media, PA.

For LED ZEPPELIN, Defendant: MICHAEL EIDEL, LEAD ATTORNEY, FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP, WARRINGTON, PA.

For JAMES PATRICK PAGE, ROBERT ANTHONY PLANT, JOHN PAUL JONES, Defendants: MICHAEL EIDEL, LEAD ATTORNEY, MATTHEW S. OLESH, FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP, WARRINGTON, PA; HELENE M. FREEMAN, PHILLIPS NIZER LLP, NEW YORK, NY.

For SUPER HYPE PUBLISHING, INC., WARNER MUSIC GROUP CORP., WARNER/CHAPPELL MUSIC, INC., ATLANTIC RECORDING CORPORATION, RHINO ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY, Defendants: MICHAEL EIDEL, LEAD ATTORNEY, MATTHEW S. OLESH, FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP, WARRINGTON, PA; PETER J. ANDERSON, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICES OF PETER J ANDERSON PC, SANTA MONICA, CA.

Page 583

MEMORANDUM

Juan R. Sánchez, J.

Plaintiff Michael Skidmore, as trustee for the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, brings claims for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement against the living members of the band Led Zeppelin (James Patrick " Jimmy" Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones) and various music industry companies associated with Led Zeppelin. The corporate Defendants are (1) Super Hype Publishing, Inc., a

Page 584

publishing company owned and managed by Page that publishes the musical compositions of Led Zeppelin and Page; (2) Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., a global music publishing company that publishes and administers Super Hype's catalog of songs, including Led Zeppelin's music; (3) Atlantic Recording Corporation, the record company that manufactured, sold, and distributed Led Zeppelin IV, the album containing the allegedly infringing song " Stairway to Heaven" and the owner of the master recordings of Led Zeppelin IV and " Stairway to Heaven" ; (4) Warner Music Group Corp. (WMG), the parent company of Defendants Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Atlantic Recording Corporation, and Rhino Entertainment Company; and (5) Rhino Entertainment Company, a company that develops WMG's catalog of artists in the United States and provides support and assistance to the WMG's frontline labels.

Defendants have moved to either dismiss or transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. For the following reasons, Defendants' motions will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges Led Zeppelin copied significant portions of its iconic 1971 song " Stairway to Heaven" from Randy Craig Wolfe's copyrighted guitar composition " Taurus," and that all of the Defendants have exploited and continue to exploit " Taurus" as " Stairway to Heaven." Plaintiff sues all Defendants for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement and also brings a claim for equitable relief in the form of an order directing Defendants and the Copyright Office to include Wolfe as a writer of " Stairway to Heaven."

Defendants filed motions to dismiss or transfer the case, one on behalf of the individual Defendants (Page, Plant, and Jones) and the other on behalf of the corporate Defendants. All Defendants ask this Court to dismiss this case for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). The corporate Defendants also ask the Court to either dismiss the case for improper venue pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) or to transfer the case to the Central District of California, where three of the five corporate Defendants have their principal places of business and where all Defendants consent to jurisdiction and venue. If the Court finds jurisdiction and venue are proper in this District, all Defendants ask the Court to transfer the case to the Central District of California " [f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses" and " in the interest of justice" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Plaintiff opposes the motions and, in the event that the Court requires more facts to resolve the personal jurisdiction issue, seeks leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery.

DISCUSSION

Venue in a copyright action is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1400(a), which provides that an action under the federal copyright laws " may be instituted in the district in which the defendant or his agent resides or may be found." A defendant in a copyright action " may be found" wherever the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction; thus, " venue in a copyright action is proper in any judicial district in which the defendant would be amenable to personal jurisdiction if the district were a separate state." Blackburn v. Walker Oriental Rug Galleries, Inc., 999 F.Supp. 636, 638 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (citations omitted).

" [A] District Court typically exercises personal jurisdiction according to the law of the state where it sits." O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute

Page 585

permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction " to the fullest extent allowed under the Constitution of the United States" and " based on the most minimum contact with this Commonwealth allowed under the Constitution of the United States." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5322(b). In order for the Court to have jurisdiction over the Defendants in this case, they must have " certain minimum contacts with . . . [Pennsylvania] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 316-17 (alterations in original) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)). Once the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction is raised, " the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that personal jurisdiction exists." Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295-96 (3d Cir. 2007). Where the court does not hold an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff " need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction and . . . [is] entitled to have [its] allegations taken as true and all factual disputes drawn in [its] favor." O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 316 (quoting Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004)). A plaintiff meets its burden to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction by demonstrating " with reasonable particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state." Mellon Bank (East) PSFS v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Because a Rule 12(b)(2) motion " is inherently a matter which requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, i.e. whether in personam jurisdiction actually lies," the plaintiff may not rely on " bare pleadings alone" but must " respond with actual proofs, not mere allegations." Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984); see also Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330, 51 V.I. 1219 (3d Cir. 2009) (" [O]nce a defendant has raised a jurisdictional defense, the plaintiff must prov[e] by affidavits or other competent evidence that jurisdiction is proper." (second alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

There are two categories of personal jurisdiction: (1) general or " all-purpose" jurisdiction, which a court may exercise to hear " any and all claims" against a defendant when the defendant's affiliations with the forum state are " so 'continuous and systematic' as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State," Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011) (quoting Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 317), and (2) specific jurisdiction, which " depends on an affiliatio[n] between the forum and the underlying controversy" and is " confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction," id. (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

For general jurisdiction to exist, " the contacts between the defendant and the forum need not be specifically related to the underlying cause of action," Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 n.1 (3d Cir. 2002), but " only a limited set of affiliations with a forum will render a defendant amenable to all-purpose jurisdiction there," Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). For an individual, " the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual's domicile," id. (quoting Goodyear, 131 S.Ct. at 2853-54), and for a corporation, the paradigm fora are its " place of incorporation and principal place of business," id. The Supreme Court has made clear that only in an " exceptional case" would an individual be " essentially at home" in a forum other that of its domicile. Id. at 761 n.19.

Page 586

For specific jurisdiction, the Third Circuit typically applies a three-part test:

First, the defendant must have purposefully directed [its] activities at the forum. Second, the litigation must arise out of or relate to at least one of those activities. And third, if the...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP