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IP/Entertainment Case Law Updates

Reinhardt v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al.

The federal district court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Richard “Richie Ramone” Reinhardt, former member of the band the Ramones, against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Apple Inc., and Real Networks Inc. and others involved in the exploitation of songs authored by members of the Ramones over digital downloads of six songs he allegedly authored while a member of the Ramones.

Reinhardt entered into a recording agreement with Ramones Productions, a corporation engaged in the business of “exploiting” the intellectual property, merchandise, and other products associated with the Ramones, but claimed that he never licensed or authorized the use of his compositions in any digital formats. The court determined the language “now or hereafter known” in the agreement as it related to “forms of reproduction” covered digital forms and was the most reasonable reading of the agreement.

Reinhardt further argued that the license referred only to “all forms” that are “manufactured and sold” and digital downloads do not fall within this definition because they are transmitted and licensed to end users rather than manufactured or sold. The court, following the Second Circuit’s new-use analysis in Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers, Ltd. v. Walt Disney Co., 145 F.3d 481 (2d Cir. 1998), found this argument to be without merit because the distinction Reinhardt attempted to draw again departed from the most reasonable reading of the agreement. The court further explained that Reinhardt failed to meet his burden of justifying this departure because he alleged that the digital recordings were sold, contradicting his own argument that digital recordings are licensed but not sold. The court therefore determined that the agreement covered digital distribution of the songs and dismissed the copyright infringement claim.