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Wake Up & Ball LLC v. Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 2, 2015

Wake Up and Ball LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
Sony Music Entertainment Incorporated, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

On August 13, 2015, the Court considered Defendant Sony Music Entertainment’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. Doc. 65; 2015 WL 4763657. The Court ordered the parties to conduct jurisdictional discovery and thereafter to prepare simultaneous 10-page memoranda on the question of the Court’s jurisdiction over Defendant. Doc. 65 at 16. The parties have completed this discovery and filed their memoranda. Docs. 107, 108. The Court has reviewed these memoranda and the related exhibits, and no party has requested oral argument. The Court concludes that Defendant is properly subject to personal jurisdiction in the District of Arizona, and will deny Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue.

I. Background.

Plaintiff Wake Up and Ball, LLC (“Wake Up”) is an Arizona limited liability company with its principal place of business in Arizona. Doc. 25, ¶ 1. In early 2014, Plaintiff produced a music video for Hell Yeah, a recording by Arizona hip hop artist Robert Carr (a.k.a. “Judge da Boss”). Id. ¶¶ 20-25, 50. In April 2014, Mr. Carr signed a contract with Defendant, pursuant to which Defendant acquired an ownership interest in the Hell Yeah recording. See Doc. 107-1, Ex. 4. In September 2014, Defendant signed a contract with Mr. Carr’s management company, Deepfreeze Entertainment, LLC (“Deepfreeze”), which purported to transfer to Defendant the copyright to the Hell Yeah video. Id. at Ex. 29. Later that month, Defendant published the video on several websites and online services, including MTV and iTunes. Doc. 25, ¶ 64. Around the same time, Plaintiff posted the video on YouTube. Id. at ¶ 62. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant took steps to have Plaintiff’s posting removed. Id. at ¶ 63.

In October 2014, Plaintiff filed this action, seeking, among other things, relief for copyright infringement from Defendant and a declaratory judgment as to its copyright ownership. Doc. 1. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. Doc. 35.

On August 13, 2015, the Court invited discovery on two factual disputes going to Court’s jurisdiction over Defendant. The first question asked whether Defendant’s intentional act in publishing the Hell Yeah video was expressly aimed at Arizona. The Court explained:

Wake Up must make a prima facie showing that Sony expressly aimed the publishing of the music video at Arizona. This requires “‘something more’ than mere foreseeability.” . . . Standing alone, the fact that Sony negotiated with an Arizona company regarding an Arizona-based artist would not be enough to establish express aiming at Arizona under post-Walden minimum contacts analysis. Nor would the fact that Sony placed the Hell Yeah video on publically available websites accessible in Arizona be sufficient. But if Sony promoted a Hell Yeah music video release party in Arizona at which Wake Up’s music video was shown, Sony expressly aimed its copyright infringement at Arizona. Moreover, promotion of live performances in Arizona would tend to show the “something more” required for express aiming under the Calder effects test . . .

Doc. 65 at 7 (citations and footnotes omitted).

The second question asked whether Defendant’s intentional act in publishing the Hell Yeah video caused harm that Defendant knew would likely be suffered in Arizona. The Court explained that this element would be satisfied if Defendant’s intentional act had foreseeable effects in Arizona, whether or not the bulk of the harm occurred there. Id. at 8 (citing Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 2010)). The Court further explained:

Evidence that Sony took steps to get the video taken down, whether directly or through Deepfreeze, would suggest that Sony was aware of, or should have been aware of, a potential copyright dispute involving Arizona entities. Harm to an Arizona entity through Sony’s copyright infringement would be foreseeable.

Id. at 9.

II. Analysis.

1. Legal Standard.

“Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014). Arizona has authorized its courts to exercise jurisdiction to the maximum extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. See Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a). Under the Due Process Clause, a federal district court may exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if the defendant has “minimum contacts” with the forum, such that the maintenance of the ...


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