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Mitchell v. Capitol Records, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

February 12, 2018

LEROY PHILLIP MITCHELL p/k/a Prince Phillip Mitchell and d/b/a Hot Stuff Publishing Co. PLAINTIFF


          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss by defendant Universal Music Group, Inc. (“Universal”). (DN 127.) Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision.

         I. Background

         At issue in this case is the alleged unauthorized use of the musical composition “Star in the Ghetto” in “If It Ain't Ruff, ” a song by the hip-hop group N.W.A. and included on the album “Straight Outta Compton.” Plaintiff Leroy Mitchell is a singer, songwriter, and record producer who has performed under the name “Prince Phillip Mitchell.” (Pl.'s Second Amend. Compl. [DN 116] ¶ 1.) Through his publishing company, Mitchell owns the copyright to the musical composition “Star in the Ghetto.” (Id. ¶ 11.) A recording of this composition was made by Ben E. King and the Average White Band under the title “A Star in the Ghetto.” (Id. ¶ 1.) Mitchell alleges that “If It Ain't Ruff” contains a sample of “A Star in the Ghetto” and that the defendants failed to obtain his permission to use the musical composition. (Id. ¶ 21.)

         Mitchell filed the present action on February 26, 2015, alleging that the use of the musical composition “Star in the Ghetto” and sound recording of “A Star in the Ghetto” in “If It Ain't Ruff” infringed upon his protected interest in these works under the Copyright Act.[1] (Id. ¶ 15.) He has asserted this claim for copyright infringement against Capitol Records, LLC (“Capitol”), Andre Romelle Young p/k/a Dr. Dre d/b/a N.W.A. (“Young”), Lorenzo Jerald Patterson, p/k/a MC Ren d/b/a N.W.A. (“Patterson”), and, most recently, Universal, [2] as these defendants are alleged to be “the writers, composers, producers, record labels, distributors, and publishers . . . of the infringing composition[.]” (Id. ¶ 14.) An entry of default was made against Patterson on October 6, 2015, due to his failure to respond to the complaint or otherwise appear. (DN 36.) Universal has now moved to dismiss the claims against it, arguing that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. (DN 127.)

         II. Discussion

         Universal argues that it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Kentucky, as jurisdiction over it is neither authorized under Kentucky's long-arm statute nor compatible with the requirements of due process. Mitchell makes two arguments in opposition. First, he argues that the record sufficiently establishes personal jurisdiction over Universal. And second, in the event the Court finds jurisdiction lacking, he argues that jurisdictional discovery or an evidentiary hearing should be permitted.

         “Where a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction over a case stems from the existence of a federal question, personal jurisdiction over a defendant exists if the defendant is amenable to service of process under the [forum] state's long-arm statute and if the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not deny the defendant[ ] due process.” Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Still N The Water Publ'g, 327 F.3d 472, 477 (6th Cir. 2003) (quotations and citations omitted). Under Kentucky's long-arm statute, personal jurisdiction exists when, as relevant to this case, a claim arises from a defendant's

1. Transacting any business in this Commonwealth;
2. Contracting to supply services or goods in this Commonwealth;
4. Causing tortious injury in this Commonwealth by an act or omission outside this Commonwealth if he regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in this Commonwealth, provided that the tortious injury occurring in this Commonwealth arises out of the doing or soliciting of business or a persistent course of conduct or derivation of substantial revenue within the Commonwealth[.]

KRS § 454.210(2).

         As for the due process analysis, “[p]ersonal jurisdiction can be either general or specific, depending upon the nature of the contacts that the defendant has with the forum state.” Bridgeport, 327 F.3d at 477 (quotations and citations omitted). Mitchell has not argued that Universal is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Kentucky; therefore, the Court will only consider whether it is subject to specific jurisdiction. ‚ÄúSpecific jurisdiction is proper over [Universal] only if their ...

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