Coda Publishing and its senior officers won their petition for discovery sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 on September 28, 2022, as part of their ongoing defense against copyright infringement claims made by seven major worldwide record labels (19-cv-11892 (SDNY)). Judge Katherine Failla of the U.S. District Court ruled that the plaintiffs must reimburse Coda for the legal fees it expended throughout the litigation of the sanctions motion, as well as for additional discovery and supplemental summary judgment briefing.
The underlying controversy surrounds the commercial distribution of documentaries featuring the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, and U2, among other prominent performers of modern music. In 2019, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against Coda Publishing and its officers for many claimed instances of copyright infringement and wanted up to $20 million in damages. During discovery, the defendants requested all papers pertaining to the plaintiffs’ ownership of the in dispute copyrights. However, when plaintiffs filed for summary judgment in 2021, they attempted to rely on a number of agreements that had not been disclosed during discovery. These agreements allegedly established the transfer of intellectual property rights for several Rolling Stones songs to the plaintiff ABKCO Music & Records, Inc. and dated back to the 1960s.
The defendants filed a Rule 37 sanctions motion for ABKCO’s refusal to deliver the agreements during discovery after CANDEY partner Josh Ray took over the case from the defendants’ earlier counsel at a prominent American law firm. Judge Failla claimed that she had “no trouble” concluding that the plaintiffs had violated their discovery responsibilities after hearing oral argument and briefings in the spring of last year. Judge Failla held that plaintiffs “were aware that the papers had not been provided at least as of the filing of their motion for summary judgment” and so “should have and were obligated to disclose the records as soon as they discovered that they had failed to do so earlier.”
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Judge Failla ruled that this violation was neither justifiable nor innocuous and reopened discovery to allow the defendants to investigate the materials at issue in the upcoming deposition of ABKCO’s president and augment its summary judgment brief accordingly. The plaintiffs are responsible for all connected costs and legal fees, as well as those incurred by the defendants for their Rule 37 motion.
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