395 F.3d 283 (6th Cir. 2005), 03-1279, Ritchie v. Williams

Docket Nº:03-1279.
Citation:395 F.3d 283
Party Name:73 U.S.P.Q.2d 1430 Robert RITCHIE, presently known as Kid Rock; Top Dog Records, Inc., and Kid Rock Superstores, Inc., Plaintiffs/Cross-Defendants-Appellees, v. Alvin B. WILLIAMS; EB-Bran Productions, Inc.; Bow-Wow Publishing, Inc., and Top Dog Publishing, Defendants/Cross-Plaintiffs-Appellants.
Case Date:January 11, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 283

395 F.3d 283 (6th Cir. 2005)

73 U.S.P.Q.2d 1430

Robert RITCHIE, presently known as Kid Rock; Top Dog Records, Inc., and Kid Rock Superstores, Inc., Plaintiffs/Cross-Defendants-Appellees,

v.

Alvin B. WILLIAMS; EB-Bran Productions, Inc.; Bow-Wow Publishing, Inc., and Top Dog Publishing, Defendants/Cross-Plaintiffs-Appellants.

No. 03-1279.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 11, 2005

Argued: Oct. 29, 2004

Page 284

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 285

ARGUED:

Stephanie L. Hammonds, Law Office of Stephanie L. Hammonds, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

William H. Horton, Cox, Hodgman & Giarmarco, Troy, Michigan, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Stephanie L. Hammonds, Law Office of Stephanie L. Hammonds, Detroit, Michigan, Gregory J. Reed, Gregory J. Reed & Associates, Detroit, Michigan, Robert S. Nolan, Cantor Colburn, Troy, Michigan, for Appellants.

William H. Horton, Christopher J. Nelson, Cox, Hodgman & Giarmarco, Troy, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before: MERRITT and GILMAN, Circuit Judges; HOOD, District Judge. [*]

OPINION

MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

This case arises from a dispute between a singer-songwriter known as "Kid Rock" (Robert Ritchie) and a promoter, Alvin Williams, and his group of associates, who entered into a series of music contracts in 1989 before Kid Rock became successful. The primary questions before us are (1) whether the District Court erred in holding that a Michigan state court action, arising from the contracts, by the Williams group against Kid Rock is preempted by the Copyright Act under the developing doctrine of "complete preemption" and hence removable to the federal court as presenting federal copyright issues rather than state claims, and (2) whether the District Court erred in foreclosing the state claims under the three-year statute of limitations found in the Copyright Act. In Section II below, we will incorporate the facts in more detail in our review of the state law claims brought in state court by the Williams group. In the first section, we will discuss the doctrine of federal jurisdiction that allows the recharacterization and removal of such claims.

I. The District Court Correctly Applied the Doctrine of Complete Preemption to Allow Removal

Section 301 of the Copyright Act broadly preempts state law claims, and federal law vests exclusive jurisdiction over such preempted copyright claims in the federal courts. Section 301 of the Copyright Act states that "all legal or equitable rights that are equivalent to any of the exclusive rights within the general scope of copyright as specified in § 106 in works of authorship that ... come within the subject matter of copyright ... are governed exclusively by this title.... [N]o person is entitled to any such right or equivalent right in any such work under the common law or statutes of any State." 17 U.S.C. § 301(a) (emphasis added). 1 Section 1388(a), Title 28, further provides

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that "[t]he district courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction of any civil action arising under any act of Congress relating to ... copyrights .... Such jurisdiction shall be exclusive of the courts of the states in ... copyright cases." The Copyright Act is unusually broad in its assertion of federal authority. Rather than sharing jurisdiction with the state courts as is normally the case, the statute expressly withdraws from the state courts any jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the Act and converts all state common or statutory law "within the general scope of copyright" into federal law to be uniformly applied throughout the nation.

Under Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 64-65, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 95 L.Ed.2d 55 (1987), the "complete preemption" doctrine serves to "recharacterize a state law claim ... as an action arising under federal law" and "converts an ordinary state common law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule." Or as is stated in Moran v. Rush Prudential HMO, Inc., 230 F.3d 959, 967 (7th Cir. 2000), the complete preemption doctrine "permits recharacterization of a plaintiff's claim as a federal claim so that removal is proper" even though the complaint may not mention a federal basis of jurisdiction. The doctrine of complete preemption applies, for example, in the labor management collective bargaining field and to ERISA plans. In dissent, Justice Scalia criticizes the doctrine as the "federalize-and-remove dance" in Beneficial National Bank v. Anderson, 539 U.S. 1, 8, 123 S.Ct. 2058, 156 L.Ed.2d 1 (2003); but, for a 7-2 majority, Justice Stevens follows the doctrine as enunciated in earlier cases. He holds that a state law usury claim against a national bank is "completely preempted" and removable when Congress vests exclusive jurisdiction in the federal courts after broadly preempting usury claims under the National Bank Act. The rationale is that in such situations the federal statutory laws "supersede both the substantive and remedial provision of state" law creating a strong form of federal preemption--presumably because of the additional need for a strong form of national uniformity implied by Congress when it made federal court jurisdiction exclusive after broadly preempting state law.

Since this case involves removal of claims stated only in state law terms, we must determine whether or not the doctrine of complete preemption applies to the Copyright Act. Although this Circuit and most other Circuits have not addressed the question directly, the Second and the Fourth Circuits have held that the doctrine of complete preemption applies in copyright cases. Most recently, the Second Circuit analyzed the Act in light of the Anderson case above and found that the doctrine of complete preemption clearly applies. Briarpatch, Ltd. v. Phoenix Pictures, Inc., 373 F.3d 296 (2d Cir. 2004). In Rosciszewski v. Arete...

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