583 F.3d 948 (6th Cir. 2009), 08-5254, Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Universal-MCA Music Pub., Inc.

Docket Nº:08-5254, 08-5255, 08-5256, 08-5257, 08-5258, 08-5259, 08-5260, 08-5261, 08-5262, 08-5263, 08-5264, 08-5265, 08-5266, 08-5267, 08-5268, 08-5269, 08-5270, 08-5271, 08-5272, 08-5273.
Citation:583 F.3d 948, 92 U.S.P.Q.2d 1372
Opinion Judge:RALPH B. GUY, JR., Circuit Judge.
Party Name:BRIDGEPORT MUSIC, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. UNIVERSAL-MCA MUSIC PUBLISHING, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Attorney:Russell J. Frackman, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Appellants. Richard S. Busch, King & Ballow, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees. Russell J. Frackman, Marc E. Mayer, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP, Los Angeles, California, Philip M. Kirkpatrick, Dickinson Wri...
Judge Panel:Before: MARTIN, GUY, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 21, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 948

583 F.3d 948 (6th Cir. 2009)

92 U.S.P.Q.2d 1372

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

v.

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

Nos. 08-5254, 08-5255, 08-5256, 08-5257, 08-5258, 08-5259, 08-5260, 08-5261, 08-5262, 08-5263, 08-5264, 08-5265, 08-5266, 08-5267, 08-5268, 08-5269, 08-5270, 08-5271, 08-5272, 08-5273.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

October 21, 2009

Argued: Oct. 8, 2009.

Page 949

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 950

ARGUED:

Russell J. Frackman, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP, 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 LLP, Los Angeles, California, Philip M. Kirkpatrick, Dickinson Wright, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellants.

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

Before: MARTIN, GUY, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

RALPH B. GUY, JR., Circuit Judge.

Ten Universal-affiliated defendants, all record and music publishing companies, have appealed a second time from the district court's decision to deny the defendants' request that attorney fees be imposed as a condition of granting plaintiffs' motions to voluntarily dismiss without prejudice the twenty cases at issue pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2). We remanded the matter after the first consolidated appeal " for a more detailed order specifically addressing the [defendants'] request for reasonable terms and conditions relating to the dismissal of [plaintiffs'] complaints." Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Universal-MCA Music Publishing, Inc., 481 F.3d 926, 927-28 (6th Cir.2007). Reviewing the orders entered after remand, we reject defendants' contention that the district court abused its discretion either by failing to provide specific reasons for its decision, or by deciding not to impose attorney fees as a condition of dismissal under Rule 41(a)(2). The judgments are affirmed.

I.

The claims involved in this appeal were originally asserted in a single action filed in May 2001 by the related entities Bridgeport Music, Southfield Music, Westbound Records, and Nine Records, alleging 500 separate counts of copyright infringement and various state law claims against approximately 800 defendants relating to the use of samples in new rap recordings. As many of our decisions have chronicled, the district court severed that action into 477 separate actions in August 2001-106 of which were brought against one or more of the Universal-affiliated defendants. In February 2002, after a period of intensive litigation, the district court stayed the proceedings in all but ten

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of the cases. While those first ten cases were vigorously litigated and appealed-including motions for attorney fees by prevailing defendants under 17 U.S.C. § 505-the rest of the cases were stayed except for a brief period to allow for settlement discussions in early 2003.1

The district court lifted the stay with respect to approximately 100 of the remaining cases in 2004-including the twenty cases at issue-for the limited purpose of allowing the exchange of written discovery. Specifically, the stay was lifted as to four of the twenty cases in March 2004, and as to the other sixteen cases in September 2004. Written discovery was exchanged in some of those cases, and plaintiffs offered to dismiss a number of the cases with prejudice under Rule 41(a)(1). Defendants would not stipulate to the dismissals, however, apparently because the district court had ruled in other Bridgeport cases that a voluntary dismissal with prejudice would not establish prevailing-defendant status for the purpose of seeking attorney fees. See Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. London Music, U.K., 345 F.Supp.2d 836 (M.D.Tenn.2004), aff'd 226 Fed.Appx. 491 (6th Cir.2007) (affirming but expressly declining to decide whether voluntary dismissal with prejudice satisfied prevailing-party test).

On various dates between December 2004 and May 2005, plaintiffs filed motions to dismiss each of the twenty cases without prejudice and asked that the parties be ordered to bear their own costs and fees. Defendants opposed the motions and requested that the district court either (1) dismiss the complaints with prejudice and an explicit designation of defendants as " prevailing parties," or (2) dismiss the complaints without prejudice on the condition that plaintiffs be ordered to pay defendants' reasonable attorney...

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