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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts
Posted: June 30, 2015

Copyright Claim Cannot be Brought in State Court Even if Repackaged as State Law Claim

On June 8, 2015, Justice Kornreich of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Craig Barna & Bronsand Music, Inc. v. Rigby, 2015 NY Slip Op. 30963(U), discussing federal preemption of copyright claims.

In deciding the defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court first examined an issue not raised by the parties: whether federal law barred the plaintiffs’ non-contract claims. The court found that it did, explaining that:

before discussing the viability of plaintiffs’ non-contractual claims, it should also be noted that such claims are, in reality, copyright infringement claims dressed up as state law causes of action. Essentially, plaintiffs are claiming that defendants used Barna’s Music during the Second Tour without plaintiffs’ authorization. This is classic copyright infringement. Copyright infringement claims, however, may only be asserted in federal court. Moreover, it is well settled that state law claims that effectively seek redress for copyright violations are preempted by the Copyright Act.

. . . [T]o the extent this action principally concerns the use of Bama’s Music during the Second Tour, this is a copyright infringement case. Plaintiffs may not assert state law claims for damages that arise solely from defendants’ violations of plaintiffs’ public performance rights.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted).

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