481 F.3d 926 (6th Cir. 2007), 05-5719, Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Universal-MCA Music Pub., Inc.

Docket Nº:05-5719, 05-5720, 05-5724, 05-5726, 05-5728, 05-5729, 05-5730, 05-5731, 05-5732, 05-5733, 05-5734, 05-6283, 05-6284, 05-6285, 05-6286, 05-6287, 05-6288, 05-6289, 05-6290, 05-6291.
Citation:481 F.3d 926
Party Name:BRIDGEPORT MUSIC, INC. et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. UNIVERSAL-MCA MUSIC PUBLISHING, INC. et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:March 30, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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481 F.3d 926 (6th Cir. 2007)

BRIDGEPORT MUSIC, INC. et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

UNIVERSAL-MCA MUSIC PUBLISHING, INC. et al., Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 05-5719, 05-5720, 05-5724, 05-5726, 05-5728, 05-5729, 05-5730, 05-5731, 05-5732, 05-5733, 05-5734, 05-6283, 05-6284, 05-6285, 05-6286, 05-6287, 05-6288, 05-6289, 05-6290, 05-6291.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

March 30, 2007

Argued: March 14, 2007.

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ARGUED:

Russell J. Frackman, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, Los Angeles, California, for Appellants.

Richard S. Busch, King & Ballow, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Russell J. Frackman, Marc E. Mayer, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, Los Angeles, California, Philip M. Kirkpatrick, Stewart, Estes & Donnell, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

Richard S. Busch, King & Ballow, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

Before: NORRIS, GILMAN, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

Bridgeport Music, Inc. and Southfield Music, Inc. (collectively, Bridgeport) filed suit against approximately 800 defendants involved in the record and music-publishing business, alleging various claims of copyright infringement. After conceding the weakness of its claims against the 20 defendants named in this appeal (collectively, the appellants), but not before the parties had expended significant time and money in discovery and other forms of trial preparation, Bridgeport moved to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice its actions against them. The appellants agreed to the dismissals, but asked the district court to impose reasonable "terms and conditions" in entering the judgment, specifically in the form of attorney fees.

In nearly identical, three-sentence orders granting the voluntary dismissals without prejudice, the district court failed to provide any reason for its decision to deny the appellants' request. It instead ordered "each party to bear its own attorneys' fees and costs." For the reasons set forth below, we VACATE the judgment of the district court and REMAND the case for a more detailed order specifically addressing the appellants' request for reasonable

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terms and conditions relating to the dismissal of Bridgeport's complaints.

I. BACKGROUND

The appellants are affiliated record and/or music-publishing companies. Bridgeport is also a music-publishing company. Its initial complaint was nearly 1,000 pages long and contained approximately 500 separate counts set forth in more than 5,200 paragraphs. Deeming the case in its original form "unmanageable," the district court ordered the action severed into more than 470 separate actions, only 20 of which are at issue in this appeal. These 20 actions were among more than 110 separate complaints served on the appellants in September of 2001. Intensive litigation among all of the parties--replete with multiple discovery requests, court appearances, and motions for summary judgment--continued until February of 2002, when the district court ordered a stay to allow for the resolution of the first 10 cases, none of which are at issue here. Other than a temporary lifting of the stay authorized in early 2003 in an attempt to have the parties to the present appeal settle, the stay remained in place for more than two years.

The district court lifted the stay in March of 2004 as to 40 more of the actions, including 4 of the 20 cases at issue here, to allow for further discovery. For the same reason, the court lifted the stay in September of 2004 as to an additional 60 cases, including the other 16 cases at issue in this appeal. During the course of discovery, Bridgeport moved to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice the 20 cases in question pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2). Rule 41(a)(2) provides in pertinent part as follows: "Except...

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