have set forth a prima facie showing of copyright ownership.
Plaintiff has the burden of rebutting the presumption arising
from Defendant's prima facie showing. Plaintiff makes several
arguments in attempt to rebut that presumption. First, Plaintiff
argues that he is a joint author of Defendants' work. Second,
Plaintiff contends that the sound recordings constituted work for
hire. Finally, Plaintiff asserts that he and Defendants had a
contract. The alleged contract provided that Plaintiff had an
exclusive license to market 5,000 copies of Defendants' sound
recordings. This Court finds that all of Plaintiff's arguments
are without merit.
First, Plaintiff argues that he is a joint author of
Defendants' work. Under the Copyright Act, a joint work "is a
work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that
their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent
parts of a unitary whole." 17 U.S.C. § 101. "The authors of a
joint work are co-owners of copyright in the work."
17 U.S.C. § 201(a). The Court must determine whether Plaintiff would likely
be able to show that he is a joint author to Defendants' work.
In Meltzer v. Zoller, 520 F. Supp. 847 (D.N.J. 1981), the
Court considered whether a homeowner could claim copyright
ownership of the architectural designs of his newly built home,
where the designs had been prepared by an independent
architectural agency. There, the plaintiff desired to have a home
built in New Jersey. See id. at 849. The plaintiff was
introduced to the vice-president of a construction company that
built private homes. See id. The vice-president of that company
commissioned an independent architectural agency to begin
preparing the designs for the plaintiff's house. See id. The
plaintiff initially met with the architect and indicated that he
wanted a four bedroom, center hall colonial style house. See
id. The plaintiff provided the architect with some sketches
indicating his desires. See id. at 849-50. The final plans
incorporated the architect's ideas, the plaintiff's desires and
input from the construction company. See id. at 850.
After completion of the plaintiff's house, the construction
company obtained permission from the plaintiff to show his house
as a representation of the construction company's work. See id.
at 851. After viewing the plaintiff's home, a couple requested
that the construction company build them a house similar to the
plaintiff's house. See id. The same architect prepared plans
for that couple similar to the plaintiff's design. See id. at
852. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a complaint alleging
copyright infringement of the plans to his house. See id.
The court held that the plaintiff had no ownership interest in
the copyright to the architectural designs of his house. See
id. at 855-57. Despite the plaintiff's contributions to the work
and submission of sketches, the Court held that the plaintiff
could not be considered a joint author to the work because he did
not create or prepare the architectural drawings. See id. at
857. Concluding that the plaintiff did not have an ownership
interest in the work, the Court dismissed his claims of copyright
infringement. See id. at 857-58.
This Court reaches a similar conclusion in this instance. The
record reflects that the parties' relationship and negotiations
commenced when Plaintiff sent Defendants a cassette to listen
to.*fn18 Plaintiff made suggestions about the number of songs
the CD should contain and the direction he thought the songs
should be going in.*fn19 On or about March 8,
1998, Plaintiff visited Defendants' recording studio; however,
the record does not reflect the exact purpose of the visit.
Beyond the initial cassette tape that Defendants listened to, and
Plaintiff's suggestions about the CD communicated through
e-mails, the record does not reflect any other contributions by
Plaintiff to the actual creation or preparation of the disputed
sound recordings.*fn20 Furthermore, with respect to the tape
that Defendants listened to, the record does not reflect that
Defendants used any of the music from that tape in the production
of the sound recordings.
"To reconcile the competing societal interests inherent in the
copyright law, copyright protection has been extended only to the
particular expression of an idea and not to the idea itself."
Franklin Mint Corp. v. National Wildlife Art Exchange, Inc.,
575 F.2d 62, 64 (3d Cir.) (citing Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201,
217-18, 74 S.Ct. 460, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954)), cert. denied,
439 U.S. 880, 99 S.Ct. 217, 58 L.Ed.2d 193 (1978). In accordance with
Meltzer, Plaintiff cannot claim joint authorship in the sound
recordings merely because he contributed the idea for the work in
the form of suggestions and desires. Meltzer, 520 F. Supp. at
857 (holding "[t]he ideas and sketches contributed by plaintiff
do not sufficiently constitute fixed expressions of ideas;
therefore, plaintiff is not the `creator' of the plans for his
house for copyright purposes.").
Moreover, the e-mails exchanged between the parties reflect
that Plaintiff agreed that Defendants held the copyright to the
sound recordings. In an e-mail dated August 25, 1998, from
Defendant to Plaintiff, Defendant stated "it is totally clear
that all copyrights for the music (including arrangements,
recordings, vocals and instrumentation) now and will forever
continue to belong to me and BBM, unless I sign an agreement to
the contrary. . . . As the creator of these tracks, I am their
owner and copyright holder." Aff. Gennaro Tedesco, Ex. B, E-Mail
28. In response, on August 27, 1998, in an e-mail from Plaintiff
to Defendant, Plaintiff stated "[a]s I now read your last E-Note,
I have no disagreements with you." Id. at E-Mail 29. The
evidence in the record leads this Court to conclude that
Defendants are the sole creators and preparers of the sound
recordings, and, therefore, the sound recordings are not a joint
Second, Plaintiff argues that the sound recordings are a
work-for-hire. The Copyright Act defines a work for hire as:
(1) work performed by an employee within the scope of
his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use
as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of
a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a
translation, as a supplementary work, as a
compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as
answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the
agree in a written instrument signed by them that the
work shall be considered a work made for hire.
17 U.S.C. § 101. If the work is for hire, "the employer or other
person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author
for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have
expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by
them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright."
17 U.S.C. § 201(b).