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Sebastian Music Group, Inc., et al. v. Ayala-Rodriguez, et al.

Plaintiffs claimed they jointly created two songs, “Lo que Paso, Paso” and “Cuentame,” with defendant Daddy Yankee. Plaintiff DJ Eliel had been listed as co-author of the songs on the albums. However, Daddy Yankee, without the plaintiffs’ knowledge, applied for copyright registrations for the songs as the sole author of the works. Plaintiffs filed a declaratory relief action against Daddy Yankee, El Cartel Records and Los Cangris Music Publishing seeking to establish joint authorship of the works and seeking an apportionment of profits.

The defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs’ complaint did not meet the requirements of 17 USC §411(a) which states “no action for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.”

The plaintiffs argued that they had not filed suit for infringement – they had filed a declaratory action to resolve the issue of ownership and an apportionment of profits – so they were not required to comply with §411(a). The court agreed and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss.